THERE is, as they say, nothing like a dame — and Matt Ian Kelly is determined
THERE is, as they say, nothing like a dame — and Matt Ian Kelly is determined that his Dame in the Kenton’s Jack and the Beanstalk panto will be one that the audience will love and won’t forget.
All the traditional components that any Dame simply must have — big wigs, big bust, big make-up and costumes aplenty — will be on display.
“I don’t think the words shy and retiring are ones that you should use about any Dame, certainly not mine — I don’t hold back at all,” says Matt Ian.
Playing Dame Trott — one of the great roles of British panto where male actors strut their stuff as outrageous females — follows on from earlier career performances as Widow Twanky in Aladdin and the forbidding Miss Critchley in the play Jennifer Skylark and the Seagull’s Handbook put on by Matt Ian’s own Powderkeg company.
“That was rather different to a panto dame with a slightly darker background to it,” he says. “In Jack and the Beanstalk a key part of my role is to keep the story moving on — to act as the link between the audience and the story.
“I sneaked a look inside the Kenton when we came down to make a promotional film for the show. It was in the middle of their summer restoration work but it’s a beautiful theatre and the perfect size for us.
“I am thrilled that we are doing an acoustic production with no mics — which I am very relieved about. If you are a trained actor you should be able to reach the back of the theatre. You just need gusto.”
And gusto is what Matt Ian seems to have in abundance. He has known panto director Ian McFarlane and producer Oli Seadon for a long time, but this is the first time he has gone on stage for them.
“I can definitely see, having spent a bit of time with them, that we clicked,” he says. “Ian has been very clever — not just casting good actors who can do the parts but realising that for a panto to work it needs to be a good unit. You need to be a bit of a family to appeal to very much a family audience.
“I am excited enough to have booked my Christmas lunch at the Hotel du Vin and we have even chosen what we are going to eat.”
Matt Ian will have earned his break as the role of the Dame is demanding.
“I am really looking forward to it,” he says. “I will have big wigs, big boobs and I have only seen one of the costumes and it is quite Hello, Dolly!
“I have been told that I have up to four changes during the show, which is great — although with all that you do get quite a workout.
“As for the make-up I do it from a clown place rather than being too precise. I see the dame as Victorian music hall style — music hall meets Harlequin, if you like.”
Matt Ian also sees pantomime as playing a key role in involving young people with the theatre.
“You get a lot of kids who never come to the theatre going to pantomime. If they have never been before you want it to be something they come back to and find remarkable.”
Born in Slough — “I think I once went to Henley when I was about eight” — Matt Ian studied at the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts in Wandsworth at 18 and has been working as an actor ever since, with a wonderfully wide-ranging list of roles to his name.
Now aged 47, he clearly remembers his own panto baptism when he went to see Ian Lavender of Dad’s Army fame appearing in Slough.
It is the traditional style of the Kenton panto that appeals to him.
“It is lovely if it is going to be a special part of people’s Christmas — I think we’ve got a special group coming together for Jack and the Beanstalk and that is such an important part of a good production — that feeling you are all working together and enjoying it.”
• Jack and the Beanstalk runs from December 17 to 27. To book, visit www.kentonÂ theatre.co.uk or call the box office on (01491) 575698. The box office in New Street is open from 11am to 3pm on weekdays and from 10am to 1pm on Saturdays. A short film starring Matt Ian Kelly as Dame Trott is available to view on the Kenton Theatre’s YouTube channel.