Theatre: There ain’t nothing like a Dame!

Panto Dame, Phil Beck, all set for Jack and the Beanstalk at the Spa.
Panto Dame, Phil Beck, all set for Jack and the Beanstalk at the Spa.

Like most of the nation Phil Beck has an eye on who is making waves in I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, who’s stepping out in Strictly Come Dancing, who won The X Factor and who will top the pop charts.

It is not out of idle curiousity or because he has a fiver on the outcome – though his alto-ego just might have.

Phil Beck

Phil Beck

Phil is writing this year’s pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk presented by Tony Peers at Scarborough Spa.

So he has to have an eye and ear out for topical references which spice up pantos across the land. “You might write the script in August but you have to be prepared to be fluid,” said Phil. “Something could happen during the run which you just have to put in,” he said.

He is also playing Dame Tilly Trott and directing the show which features two Scarborough actresses, Lori Kellett as Jill and Charlotte Buxton as Fairy Sweet Pea.

As an aside Lori’s sister Devan is playing Alice Fitzwarren in Peers’ Dick Whittington and his Wonderful Cat at Parkway, Beverley.

It is the third year he has played dame and the sixth panto he has worked in for Tony.

Born near Nottingham and brought up in Peterborough, Phil’s parents were involved in amateur dramatics. His dad was a dame of some renown.

“People have different ways of playing dame, for some the character is a man in a frock for others it is a mumsy role – I’m somewhere in the middle,” said Phil who was lucky enough to work with one of the best in the business, Nigel Ellacott. This year Nigel is in panto in Wycombe.

Phil will be donning outrageous costumes, garish make-up, huge wigs and high-heels and reeling off the naughty but nice lines that have the audience in stitches.

“My dame is an amalgam of all the women who have had an influence on my life – including my mum and my wife – a caricature and tongue-in- cheek characterisation of all those women.

“The dame is the glue that sticks most pantomimes together,” he said.

“The good thing about Scarborough Spa panto is you cannot get a truer, more traditional panto right through the songs, dances and routines.”

This year there will be never-before-seen props and gags as well as the routines – including the ghost scene – the audiences expect.

Phil has been involved professionally in the entertainments business since he was 18 and, at his parents’ insistence, also trained as an accountant.

He moved to Flamborough 12 years ago and worked as the entertainments manager for a holiday camp.

He loved the area so much that he and wife Clair and 16-month-old son Jaxon have made it their home.

As well as panto he works in shows during the year and sings in hotels.

“I have been very lucky in my career. Put it this way, I have never needed to fall back on the accountancy training.”

Sharing the stage with Phil, Lori and Charlotte will be Louise Willoughby as Jack, Nick Fawcett as the King, Mike Carnell as Silly Billy and Dave Kustard as Fleshcreep.

Dancers from the Scarborough-based TLC of Dance are also performing.