Paul O'Grady


SELECTING her best 'chewing a wasp' face Lily Savage, Birkenhead's blonde bombsite, admits the worst: "I hate pantomimes," she says.

The marketing man from Southampton's Mayflower Theatre shudders almost imperceptibly as the star of his festive show continues her anti-panto rant.

"I loathe them," says Savage. "I always used to avoid them like the plague, all that 'it's behind you' and custard pies and things. It's ridiculous!"

It hasn't been the best of days. Savage, aka Paul O'Grady, has been held up by a bomb scare.

Arriving more than an hour late from his Kentish home he has raced against the clock to bung some slap on and change into tights, wig and a slinky floor-length black dress split to the thigh.

The whole ensemble is set off by a severe turban and a bundle of props that include a poisoned apple and an at present inanimate animatronic crow.

The transformation is complete. Savage has emerged as the Wicked Queen. Now she's being expected to talk Snow White to a bunch of assembled hacks.

"This is only your second pantomime," I remark. She nods. "And last," she snaps. Yes, write that down, big letters, L.A.S.T. - last."

By now even the marketing man has realised she's joking.

Lily continues her rant: "As for all that men dressed up as women business, it's terrible. I won't have them on the stage with me.

"When I was a kid I didn't understand it. I'd be thinking hang on, that man's a woman and those ugly sisters, they're men. And that woman whose just gone into the kitchen wearing a tutu, she's a radio DJ - a local one. It just didn't make any sense."

Savage, or perhaps its O'Grady speaking now, says she/he reckons that Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is actually a great pantomime because it's got a decent storyline.

And the truth about hating panto? "I never think I'm going to like it but I always end up enjoying myself in the end," he admits.

O'Grady says that the thought of crawling from a warm bed on a cold winter's day to do a matinee in front of a theatre full of screaming kids is not inclined to improve his mood.

But there are compensatory factors.

"It's great actually because you can be as mad and as evil as you like and they all think you're pretending."

With his reputation for near-the-knuckle adult material, some critics have seen him as an unlikely choice for family pantomime.

O'Grady however is adamant that he would never overstep the mark with an audience full of children.

"I think these people forget that I never misbehaved on the Big Breakfast and I reckon I was the only person who never swore on Richard and Judy."

Lily savage stars in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at Southampton's Mayflower Theatre from tonight (Friday, December 22), until Sunday, January 21.

© Jeremy Miles 2022