Some actors simply can’t get enough of panto season and they’re back year after year with amazing audiences around the UK. While you may see an actor try once or twice, the legends we’ve listed below absolutely love the drama of pantomime and step on the stage year after year in flamboyant costumes and ready to dazzle audiences with their outrageous performances.
Since departing Eastenders in 2021 for which he won best newcomer at the TV Choice awards, Davood has most recently been seen in the BBC’s Holby City as ‘Eli Ebahimi’ and in his guest star role in the BBC’s Beyond Paradise. Previous TV work includes Doctors, Casualty, Life's Too Short, Law & Order, Skins Redux, Doctor Who, Top Boy, Fast Freddie, Silent Witness, Criminal Justice. Spooks and of course narrowly missed out on a semi-final spot with his professional partner Nadiya Bychova in the 2017 season of Strictly Come Dancing. On stage, he could be seen in 13 at The National Theatre, as well as working for York Theatre Royal and Pilot Theatre.
This is Davood’s second pantomime, having been nominated for Best Villain at The Pantomime Awards 2023.
Danny La Rue
Glamour and glitz were never far from where Danny went, and he simply loved the panto stage and taking on the role of the pantomime dame. Danny La Rue regularly took on the role of the Dame from the 1960s onwards and his dames were as outrageous and exceptional as you would imagine. Every stage Danny took to was filled with his sparkle and he took on many of the most famous dames from Widow Twankey to the Fairy Godmother.
Spotted on plenty of celebrity reality TV shows and is most famous for her role as Peggy in Hi-de-Hi! Su Pollard is a household name who has also become a big star in the world of panto. She’s been performing in panto since the late 70s and shows no signs of stopping. Her first show Goldilocks and the Three Bears at the Grand Theatre in Wolverhampton and last year she showed up as the Fairy in Jack and the Beanstalk in Northwich.
Going a bit further back in time and you find another great of the panto dame world, Tommy Trafford. Tommy performed at the Blackpool Grand many times and was a well-loved and well-known comedian on the local circuit. He was particularly famous for putting on pantomimes in the nearby seaside town of Southport in the 1960s to 1980s and even earned the nickname “Mr Southport” for his efforts. His panto dames had a classic and memorable feel, with all the nostalgia and flamboyance you’d expect from an experienced panto performer.
They might be a bit of an 80s throwback, but the comedy duo Ian and Jimmy Krankie (actually husband and wife Ian and Janette Tough) never fail to make audiences laugh when they turn up in pantomime. A famous and well-loved comedy double act, Janette and Ian masqueraded as a comic schoolboy and his father figure and have taken to the stage in many pantos since the 1970s. You may have seen them in Babes in the Wood, Dick Whittington, or Aladdin to name a few. Their cabaret-style act is the perfect match for the pantomime stage.
If you can’t picture Anne Charleston, you’d probably recognise her voice. Anne was the loving yet gravelly-voiced Madge in Australian soap Neighbours but once her role on the show ended, she turned her hand to the panto stage here in the UK. Anne has performed in over 20 pantomimes around the UK and usually finds herself playing a glamorous queen or saving the day in the form of the Fairy Godmother.
Is a list of panto legends ever complete without the mention of Christopher Biggins? The ever popular and effortlessly gregarious Biggins is the unparalleled queen of panto with his dame performances being the stuff of legend. He has been performing in panto for decades and while he declared he didn’t want to “die in a dress” and planned to perform no more in 2016, he has since been in many shows, including performing as Mrs Smee in Darlington just last year.
Sir Ian McKellen
One of the most esteemed actors we all know but also an absolute veteran of pantomime, Sir Ian McKellen has dipped in and out of panto over the years. Sir Ian McKellen’s amazing filmography does make you wonder why he’s such a panto fan sometimes, but he absolutely loves everything about the stage and that includes panto. His performances as a unique and esteemed dame have spanned the years and he was back on stage as recently as last year, as Mother Goose. The show toured the country and was a huge hit, with McKellen’s unique approach to the flamboyant dame highly praised.
Many actors give panto a go but only a select few make it a trademark of their career. These are just some of our panto legends and their commitment to this style of performance. Some actors just love the fun and theatre of panto, and we can’t say we blame them.
Don't miss Aladdin at the Fairfield Halls, from Sat 16 Dec 2023 – Sun 7 Jan 2024
Tickets from £16.50.