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Welcome to Jeff’s pantomime page, (oh yes it is)! A great British tradition, Jeff’s panto performances go back to his early career. His earliest archived role came as the Genie of the Ring in Aladdin at The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry. He followed this with numerous portrayals of comedy characterisations such as Idle Jack in Dick Whittington, Billy Goose in Mother Goose, Simple Simon in Jack and the Beanstalk, Muddles in Babes in the Wood and Mr Policeman and Carpenter in Pinocchio opposite Clive Dunn.  

In 1980, by contrast, Jeff was cast as the evil King Rat in Dick Whittington to Ken Dodd’s Idle Jack but his strong comedy links saw him return in the main, to the comic roles for several years. In 1979 Jeff was booked to play Jack Boot in a now rarely seen panto production of Robinson Crusoe. He also was cover for star of the show Frankie Howerd as Billy Crusoe. The show was to prove a major turning point in Jeff’s career when he was called upon to take over from Howerd following a freak accident. The cast included Carry On legend Bernard Bresslaw, Tommy Trinder, Anita Harris and one of pantomime’s most renowned Dames, Jack Tripp as Mrs Crusoe.

Over the next few years, Jeff’s panto roles reflected his success in the golden age of comedy, often appearing with his colleagues from such shows as Hi de Hi but his earlier experiences of working with the likes of Jack Tripp and Terry Scott in the role of Dame plus the influences of Arthur Askey and Cyril Fletcher, had left him in no doubt that as soon as he was ‘old enough’, his panto future lay in that direction. The transition came in 1989.

Already contracted by E&B Triumph to appear as Muddles in Sleeping Beauty alongside Hinge and Bracket at the Theatre Royal Plymouth, Jeff found himself at a party discussing the show with producer Paul Elliott. Elliott confessed he was finding it difficult to cast a Dame as the actors he had approached felt that the production already had two in the guises of Dame Hilda and Dr Evadne. This idea seemed somewhat ridiculous to Jeff as ‘The Dear Ladies’ as they were affectionately known were, to all intents and purposes just that, whereas a panto Dame was always ‘a bloke in a frock’. It was then he heard himself utter those three fateful words “I’ll do it”. The following week a letter arrived with a formal offer to play the role of Nurse and the die was cast. He has played Dame in every panto he has appeared in since and is now considered one of the top five Dames in the country.

In 1999 Judy joined Jeff in pantomime for the first time as the Fairy in Jack and the Beanstalk at Wolverhampton Grand. In recent years they have played Fairy and Dame together on a regular basis. Both admit that although it is not a criterion for them, panto companies have come to view them as something of a team these days. Something they are delighted about as it means they can spend all of Christmas together. In addition to his acting portrayals, Jeff also recently took on the role of director when he directed Aladdin at the Queens Theatre, Barnstable in 2005/06 and Dick Whittington at the Hall for Cornwall in Truro the following year.

So does he have any ambitions still to accomplish when it comes to this unique British theatrical genre? Oh yes he does! Last year (2008/09) saw Jeff’s 38th performance in a pantomime and his 20th as Dame. He would love to continue in the same vein for the foreseeable future or at least until he has fulfilled his wishes to play the Nurse in Babes in the Wood and the title role in Mother Goose, his two all time favourite Dames.

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