Meet Robert Styles, our fabulous dame appearing in Dick Whittington this December

1. Are you looking forward to coming to Bury?

It’s my first time in Bury and I’m really excited – especially as it’s the home of my favourite comedienne – Victoria Wood. I met Vic a few times, mainly after recordings of Dinner Ladies at BBC TV Centre, when my father was the studio ‘warm-up’. I also auditioned for her when she was casting That Night We Sang for the Manchester Arts Festival in 2011.

2. When did you first play the dame? Have you played dame in other theatres?

I first played Dame in Sleeping Beauty for the Big Tiny at the Millgate Arts Centre, Delph in 2019. Last year, I played Little Joan in Robin Hood at the Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield where we were nominated for four Pantomime Awards.

3. Do you have a favourite dame? And what’s the secret to being a good dame?

I was lucky to have seen some of the famous Dames in my childhood – such as Danny La Rue and Arthur Askey at the London Palladium in the 1970s. Ronnie Corbett was a wonderful Mother Goose, particularly when dressed in a tutu for a comedy ballet sequence involving a large red balloon. John Inman and Barry Howard were a hilarious double-act, especially as Ugly Sisters.

4. What do you think is the secret to being a good Dame?

The secret of being a good Dame is a combination of stamina, comic timing, a good make-up, a good script, being able to ad lib and – of course – outrageous costumes! A Dame should be saucy, never vulgar, but a warm, maternal character with love in her heart.

5. Panto is one of the country’s oldest theatrical traditions, it’s survived wars and now a pandemic. In this digital virtual age what do you think makes it work?

Because audiences will always agree that you can’t beat ‘live’ entertainment – especially when they can join in, sing along and cheer the heroes and boo the baddies.

6. Have you got a favourite pantomime?

I have three favourites – Aladdin for the magic and mysticism involved with the two Genies, the flying carpet and the creepy cave; Jack & The Beanstalk with its Giant and Pantomime Cow; and of course Dick Whittington for its London setting, the cat, the pesky rats and its adventure at sea!

7. Have you any on stage moments “disasters” in past pantomimes?

If you mean falling off the front of the stage, or putting my wig on back to front, or tripping over the scenery then ‘No’, luckily I haven’t – well not yet anyway.

8. We know you’ve appeared in many musicals – what was like to appear in Priscilla?

It was not unlike being in a pantomime really – men in frocks and high heels, lots of jokes and songs, lavish costumes and colourful scenery. It was a privilege to share the stage with so many talented West End performers/dancers plus Jason Donovan and Ray Meagher – two of Australia’s biggest soap stars. Eight shows a week for a year was an exhausting but rewarding experience. Biggest highlight was meeting Liza Minnelli.

9. What have you been working on at the moment?

I have just finished directing graduates in a stage play for the Royal Central School of Speech & Drama in London. During the summer, I provided a puppetry sequence for Sam Mendes’ latest film – Empires Of Light.

10. What are you most looking forward to this Christmas in the North and will you spend Christmas in Bury?

I will be staying in Ramsbottom in the lead up to Christmas before returning to my base in Kent for the holiday itself. I’m looking forward to the warm welcome that the North always provides, and to be among a team of people focused on bringing a bit of sparkle and Christmas cheer to its audiences, be they young or old. We live in gloomy and difficult times so come along and see us at The Met for a dash of escapism and seasonal spectacle.

Tickets for Dick Whittington can be purchased here.

Tickets for Dick Whittington can be purchased here