Being a fantastic pantomime dame is an art-form all to itself. The dame is the character who cements the audience and the cast together, carrying the comedy throughout the entire performance. Probably one of the best panto dames this year is Mrs Smee, in Croydon’s Fairfield Hall’s version of Peter Pan. Played by the awesome, Quinn Patrick, Mrs Snee bursts the boundaries of hilarity, taking her dame to almost galactic heights. The Positive caught up with Quinn to find out the secrets behind being the perfect panto dame:
The Positive: You’ve done many roles throughout film and theatre, how different are those roles to doing the traditional art of panto?
Quinn Patrick : Well each one really has a style that you need to learn and then master. That’s often the challenging bit. The thing with all forms of performance is knowing where the focus is for that style.
The Positive: You’re absolutely hilarious on stage, what sort of research do you do to prepare for your role?
Quinn Patrick : Thank you, that’s very kind of you. Research generally consists of seeing what’s been popular throughout the year in the media and then maybe including some of that. Anything people can recognise they like. Early on though, the research was more about who, what, why and where and learning to do those things to the best of your ability.
The Positive: You seem to completely ‘own’ your dame roles, do you have input into script and do you make changes to costume and lines to improve the character?
Quinn Patrick : The scripts have all been written by Paul Hendy and he really does give you a great book. Rehearsals are where I get my opportunity to create added mayhem. I have fortunately been trusted enough now to make things work best for the way I will play it. With regard to costumes, I have been learning to sew, so I’m adding my own stuff into the mix. I have a strong vision for how she would look and I love it when it works out.
The Positive: Do you enjoy the impromptu and interactive nature of panto? Do you ever chop things around on stage just to get the other cast members laughing?
Quinn Patrick : I think there is a bit of a myth that panto is all about the ‘impromptu’. It’s all worked out like any other play would be and rehearsals can be quite full on. Everyone needs to be completely on the ball in the cast. The fun interactive bit comes with the audience. Each show they are new and you just far from know what you’ll get, I definitely enjoy that bit.I love making people laugh though, so yes, I far from just limit it to the audience!
The Positive: Have you ever had a performance where the audience limited their responsives – how does that impact on the cast?
Quinn Patrick : Sometimes an audience may miss the point or be a bit rowdy however it makes you dig deeper. I really believe that you can win the majority of audiences over, so I’m happy to keep the morale up backstage, so everyone can give their best.
The Positive: Tell us some behind-the-scenes secrets, how do you action those costume changes so quickly?
Quinn Patrick : Costume changes are a bit of an art form and you have to do them the same every time or things suddenly a bit challenging. I have a brilliant dresser who helps loads.
The Positive: Do you carry your ‘dame’ antics backstage or do you instantly snap back to Quinn Patrick as soon as the curtain’s down?
Quinn Patrick :I’m probably a bit quieter off stage really. I like to let other people get a word in however trust me, I’m definitely game for a laugh. You need good company spirit backstage it shines through on stage too then.
The Positive: What’s next for Quinn Patrick – any plans for 2014?
Quinn Patrick : I’m very excited about 2014 actually. It is still unconfirmed for the year however I think that makes it more fun. I love a sense of adventure!