THEATRE- Julia says cheers to panto role

AS far as her typical Christmas schedule goes, actress Juliet Cadzow feels like she's putting her feet up this year.

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Juliet Cadzow with Aladdin & Wee Jeannie co-stars Cat Grozier, George Drennan, and Dave Anderson.  Pictures: Colin Templeton
Juliet Cadzow with Aladdin & Wee Jeannie co-stars Cat Grozier, George Drennan, and Dave Anderson. Pictures: Colin Templeton

Sure, there's the starring role in the Doctor Who Christmas Special as a glacial governess.

And the woman better known to pre-schoolers as Balamory bus driver Edie McCredie also had filming for a BBC Christmas Eve programme to tick off her list.

Let's not forget, either, the 27 afternoon pantomime performances to get through before the big day arrives.

But at least her role in A Panto, A Pie And A Pint involves playing just two characters, rather than the multitude of roles she's been tasked with in Christmases past.

"I've got a slightly easier time of it this year," she said.

"I remember one year I was Robin Hood, his merry men, Maid Marian and the lion, the tin man and the scarecrow!

"We had a cut-out board and I had to put my head through it for all the different characters.

"It just had the audience absolutely in stitches. When you hear that laughter, you think 'this is why I do it'."

A panto veteran who starred with Stanley Baxter in the 1970s, Juliet has appeared in blockbuster productions at the King's theatres in Glasgow and Edinburgh and the Sunderland Empire. "The productions were extraordinarily lavish," she said.

But she's swapped those big-budget productions for a small stage in Glasgow's West End.

Now in her seventh panto season at Oran Mor, Juliet has discovered that what the venue lacks in finance, it makes up for in ingenuity.

Her Sleeping Beauty role in 2010 was the most taxing: that was when she played three good fairies, a wicked witch, Robin Hood's motley crew and those yellow brick road favourites.

She's also portrayed evil queens in Alice In Poundland and in Snow White and the Seventh Dwarf, jangled chains in a credit crunch-inspired A Christmas Carol and sailed doon the watter in summer panto Goldilocks and the Glasgow Fair.

This year, Oran Mor's panto barons, David MacLennan and Dave Anderson – the Wildcat theatre company founders who made political musicals their calling card – are embarking on a magical carpet ride.

The show, which has been given the irreverent treatment expected by lunchtime theatre fans, has a tongue-in-cheek Glasgow twist.

"It's called Aladdin and Wee Jeannie," said Juliet. "And she's on the bottle, not in the bottle."

However, she added: "This one has stayed fairly faithful to the story of Aladdin. It hasn't gone wandering off too heavily into other pantomimes.

"Obviously there are many pointed remarks to the political situation and current affairs."

Juliet plays the tartan-clad Jeannie, as well as Wishy Washy, who's more fond of hoodies than mandarin collars.

The two weeks of rehearsals blurred the line between Juliet's personal and professional life, as she's married to Aladdin's director, David MacLennan, who is the producer and founder of A Play, A Pie And A Pint.

"It's quite scary," said Juliet.

"You go into the rehearsal room and just put on different hats – suddenly I'm an actress in awe of my director. He treats me just the same as he would treat any of the actors."

The couple have described their meeting at Elaine C Smith's wedding in 1988 as "love at first sight".

Juliet took time out from rehearsals last week to record a festive BBC show at the Church of the Holy Rude in Stirling.

And she travelled to Cardiff in October to film her role in the Doctor Who Christmas Special.

Juliet plays the Ice Governess in scenes using computer-generated imagery (CGI).

"Because my character is CGI, I'm not recognisable as me – I'm all iced over. But I think my voice is recognisable," she said.

West Lothian-born Juliet is a graduate of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.

Her career has taken her from starring with Billy Connolly in The Great Northern Wellie Boot Show to roles in The Wicker Man, William McIlvanney's The Big Man, Stone of Destiny, Irvine Welsh's Wedding Belles, Scotch and Wry, Taggart, Coronation Street and Hamish Macbeth.

Juliet has performed in five dramas in Glasgow's lunchtime theatre series, after making her debut in Tequila Sunset in 2006.

"It's easier to play tragedy than comedy," she said. "You can make people cry far, far more easily than you can make them laugh."

And panto brings another challenge, as "you very much play it right to the audience".

Oran Mor's show has all the hallmarks of a traditional panto, with choruses of "oh yes it is", audience participation and the odd sweetie shower, minus one ingredient: children.

Aladdin and Wee Jeannie is described as suitable only for "children with very liberal parents" given its occasionally colourful language and topical gags.

True to cross-dressing panto tradition, Cat Grozier plays Aladdin, while Dave Anderson and George Drennan drag it up as the dames.

"The thing about pantos is the wonderful fantasy," said Juliet. "You can go anywhere, do anything. Spells can happen that transform your life from rags to riches by rubbing a lamp."

l Aladdin and Wee Jeannie is at Oran Mor, Byres Road, from today until Saturday, December 22 (not Sundays). Buy tickets (£8-£12.50) at www.ticketweb.co.uk or on the door.

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