Brian Beacom

JULIET Cadzow smiles as she reflects on the difference a year can make.

This winter she’ll be back at the King’s theatre, starring as the Wicked Queen in Sleeping Beauty, wallowing in the razzle and dazzle and working alongside her pal Elaine C.Smith.

But last Christmas, Juliet’s panto experience involved working in North Wales, and living in a static caravan.

“I’d never been in one before,” says the lady with the cut glass accent, who is descended from Polish aristocracy.

“And I loved it. But one morning I woke and felt the caravan move. I figured I was being stolen. I could feel the whole thing shake.

“I ran to the window expecting to see me being towed away - but it was only the camp man changing the gas bottles.”

She adds, laughing; “It was all part of the adventure.”

Juliet has had many panto adventures over the years.

The actress, who currently stars as Suzie Fraser in BBC soap River City, last appeared at the King’s panto two years ago as the Wicked Queen.

But she hadn’t been back at the King’s since 2005 when Juliet appeared alongside Elaine C. Smith and Jonathan Watson.

Back in 2005 however, Juliet’s Carabosse was a scary, avian-like creature.

“I remember Johnny playing Frank McAvennie in the panto, with ‘Frank’ wandering into my cave, looking at me in all my black feathers and saying ‘Where’s the burdz?’

“It was hilarious. But I’m sure the comedy this year will be even better.”

Juliet loves panto. “The energy required for the two shows a day is tremendous, however.

“So I’m going back to the gym and I’m doing voice exercises to get it strong.

“The big fear is that it goes. In television you can rely on microphones.”

The one time Balamory star has learned huge amounts over the years about how to succeed in panto.

But she smiles as she admits you can never quite work out what an audience will laugh at.

“In Peter Pan (in Wales) I had to play the double, Mrs Darling and the comic mermaid.

“I did this routine as the Scottish mermaid with a strong Scottish accent, and I talked about swimming a’ the way doon the Clyde to get there.

“And I added that in Scotland, we love fish. Our last First Minister, for example, was a Salmond and the current one is a Sturgeon.

“But nothing happened. Not a single laugh did I hear. And it left me up there thinking ‘Is there anyone out there?’”

She adds, grinning; “On days like that though you have to try and laugh inside. It’s all you can do.”

Juliet’s most difficult panto stint came about when she had recently left drama college in Glasgow, and agreed to understudy Stanley Baxter in Cinderella at the King’s, Edinburgh.

“I was young and confident,” she recalls, “but then I got to thinking about what would happen if Stanley caught a cold and I’d have to go on.

“I began to be terrified at the thought of it. I could imagine all his fans turning up - and getting me.

“Fortunately, Stanley is the type who would never go off.”

Panto always throws up the surreal and the unexpected casting, such as playing alongside little Angus Lennie, who once starred as her husband.

And there are often physical problems to contend with.

“Sometimes when you’d be hoisted back up through the trap, having taken off your costume en route, and the lift would go to fast as you tried to change and you could find yourself arriving on stage in your scanties.

“But they don’t use traps anymore, thank goodness.

“And once I leapt over the pyrotechnics just as they went off.”

She adds, with a huge laugh; “I leapt up a little higher than I normally would.”

Working with the late Gerard Kelly was always a hoot.

“In one panto sketch he had to fill his life with water.

“But one night he laughed so much the water came out all over my face.

“The audience loved it so much Kelly kept it in. And he repeated this every night. I wasn’t so keen on that.”

Juliet’s day job is of course River City where she has really made her mark.

“It’s great, although you do feel a little like a hamster on a wheel at times.

“If you are in a lot it can be relentless, getting up at 5.15 and working ‘till 7pm.”

But surely it’s fun when she opens the pages of the script to find out what is about to happen to her character?

“Yes, I did smile when I read I’d be dating Shellsuit Bob,” she says, grinning.

“I never saw that one coming.

“And I loved it when she heard Lennie (the gangster) possibly had amnesia and Suzie was straight into the hospital and hinting ‘Darling, I think we were a little closer than that . . ‘”

“But the character is great, and she’s had a lot to deal with, her husband of thirty years leaving her for a man.”

Juliet misses her co-star Gary Lamont who played her son.

“I do. We were so close. But I now share a dressing room with Dawn Steele and she’s such a laugh.

Art is imitating life at the moment. Juliet’s son Shane is working on a farm in Cambridgeshire and doesn’t get to see him too often.

“I miss him,” she says. “When he came to Wales last year he stopped off at a butchers and bought me a pheasant. It was all very sweet. And plucked.

“But I hope he comes home for Christmas.”

She breaks into a wide smile. “Even though I won’t be home. I’ll be playing Wicked at the King’s

*Sleeping Beauty, The King’s Theatre, December 2- January 7 also stars Johnny Mac and Paul James Corrigan.