Five Minutes with the Fabulous Doreen Tipton

Doreen Tipton is a legend in her own lifetime. The first person in the United Kingdom to be diagnosed with ‘Lazy Cow Syndrome’, this awful disability hasn’t stopped Doreen from becoming an icon, first in her beloved Black Country, and now on the way to conquering the world. Ahead of this year’s Wolverhampton Grand pantomime, ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’, I had a chat with Doreen at the stunning Mount Hotel. Unfortunately, Doreen was feeling a little tired, probably as a result of lazy cow syndrome, and so she had a little rest in bed. Nevertheless, I spoke to Doreen (and her ultra-ego Gill Jordan) about this year”s panto, and life in general.

JACK AND THE BEANSTALK – PANTO – GRAND WVH
Wolverhampton Grand Theatre Jack and the Beanstalk Panto photo-call
Picture by Adam Fradgley

Fashion-Mommy: Last year you played the Lazy Empress in Aladdin, tell me about your character this year, is it true you’re playing yourself?

Doreen: Sort of. This year I’m playing Dame Trott’s lazy next door neighbour, who happens to be called Doreen.

FM: Do you get recognised out of character?

DT: I never get recognised out of character. When I’m Doreen people shout to me in the street, come over to me and often act as if we were life long friends, which is really lovely. I hardly ever do interviews as Gill. I think people want to believe that Doreen is real.

FM: What is the reaction to Doreen outside of the Midlands?

DT: I think it is more to do with humour than geography – you either get Doreen or you don’t. It’s about being on that particular wavelength, a little bit like Monty Python, lots of people don’t get it, but others love it. What I find interesting is that the audience spans right across the age groups, from young kids to 90 year olds.

JACK AND THE BEANSTALK – PANTO – GRAND WVH
Wolverhampton Grand Theatre Jack and the Beanstalk Panto photo-call
Picture by Adam Fradgley

FM: Why do you think you appeal to the young?

DT: I think personally the young find me funny for the same reason’s they find their parents or grandparents funny, they recognise the same sort of humour that they see in their own older relatives.

FM: Is Doreen based on anyone in particular?

DT: No, not any one person, but more a generalisation from lots of different people. But lots of people recognise Doreen as someone they know.

FM: You’ve returned to the Grand Theatre for this year’s panto – why was that?

DT: I had such a fantastic time last year, everything was perfect, the cast, the backstage staff,and the Grand is such a wonderful theatre. I just couldn’t resist!

FM: Is there any particular character in pantomime that you would love to play?

DT: (in a big, booming voice) Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all. I would love to play the Wicked Queen from Snow White, a vicious queen.

FM: How did you persuade Robert Plant to be in your movie?

DT: I know, I still pinch myself about that. I think the best answer is that I am a big fan of Robert, and Robert is a fan of Doreen’s. It was amazing!

Sat 9 Dec – Sun 14 Jan

JACK AND THE BEANSTALK

Wolverhampton Grand, click here for ticket information.

Birmingham Hippodrome Launch Cinderella at Villa Park

Cinderella – Birmingham Hippodrome Panto Launch 2017. 20th September 2017.
Pictured are Beverley Knight, Matt Slack, Suzanne Shaw, Ceri Dupree and Phil Randall.
Picture by Simon Hadley.

Wednesday saw Villa Park turned into a pantomime wonderland (not for the first time this season it has to be said – Baggies fan Joke!).  The Birmingham Hippodrome were launching this year’s panto, Cinderella, with an all star cast. Beverly Knight, Suzanne Shaw, Matt Slack, Ceri Dupree and Phil Randall were all there, in their best panto finery, talking to this year’s panto producer and director Michael Harrison. It was a funny, happy occasion and certainly wet the appetite for what looks set to be another astounding success for the Hippodrome.

Suzanne Shaw,Ceri Dupree and Phil Randall

For Suzanne, this is the third time playing Cinderella, although the first time playing at the Hippodrome. She was asked about songs and revealed that she will be singing some songs in the panto, including a duet with her handsome prince, Danny Mac. She also has a new song called ‘At the Hippodrome’ which tells of the history of the Hippodrome. Suzanne says she is a little scared to be singing alongside Beverley Knight – saying ‘who wouldn’t be’, and also joked how lucky she is to have some ‘eye candy’ over Christmas in the form of the delectable Danny Mac.

Veteran pantomime dames Ceri Dupree and Phil Randall are coming together this year as the Ugly Sisters, enjoying the chance to play the wickedly evilas Voluptua and Verruca  rather than cuddly dames. As ever, the costumes were the subject of much excitement, described as showstoppers, ‘so big they could be scenery, and the audience was told that the costumes to look out for are when the sisters arrive at the ball.

I loved all the little backstage details like make up taking around an hour due to needing to shave, cover eyebrows etc. Someone asked if the costumes need to be specifically cleaned and Ceri Dupree had the audience in hysterics as he said ‘no, just spray a little Febreeze around the crotch and you’re done’.

Matt Slack

Matt Slack could be considered a Birmingham Hippodrome legend, after starring in the last five pantomimes, holding the record for the most consecutive pantomime performances at the Hippodrome. Earlier this year Matt won a British Pantomime award  for best comic for his role in Dick Whittington. This year Matt is playing Buttons for the first time and joked that it is the role that gets lots of the laughs and the pathos, but that it is going to be rewritten so he also gets the girl.

Matt is well known for being the king of Birmingham Panto, but he is also a talented serious actor. This year has seen him playing in Eastenders and in a touring production of Mrs Henderson Presents, playing a 1930s Cockney Comic in the story of the Windmill Theatre.

Matt says he is lucky to be able to do diverse things, but that his heart always lies in panto.

Cinderella – Birmingham Hippodrome Panto Launch 2017. 20th September 2017.
Pictured is Matt Slack (Buttons).
Picture by Simon Hadley.

Beverley Knight

Making her pantomime debut this year, Midland born Beverley Knight was clearly happy to be back home in ‘God’s own country’ as she described it. Beverley is playing the part of the Fairy Godmother and is really looking forward to performing ‘Knowing that friends and family are just up the road.’

Beverley was resplendent in her gorgeous glittering costume and said ‘I’ve never been so sparkly and sequinny, I love the fact that I can float in and out of scenes.’

Beverley was asked about her other West End theatre roles, including playing Grizabella in Cats. She explained how much she had loved singing Memory, saying ‘If you have a voice, who wouldn’t want to sing Memory.’ She also said how happy she was to be singing in this year’s panto and admitted ‘ I will sing whatever is put in front of me.’

CINDERELLA runs at Birmingham Hippodrome from Mon 19 Dec 2017 until Sun 28 Jan 2018.  Tickets from £15.50* can be booked on 0844 338 5000† or from birminghamhippodrome.com.

 

Dick Whittington – Festive Family Fun at the Birmingham Hippodrome

 

The UK’s biggest and best panto opened last night, as the Birmingham Hippodrome launched Dick Whittington, this year’s festive offering. A star studded cast, including John Barrowman, The Krankies, Steve McFadden and Jodie Prenger dazzled and delighted the packed auditorium with all the best of panto tradition, presenting a dazzlingly camp and frothy spectacle that was, quite simply, hilarious.

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As with the best of panto, the story held little resemblance to the legend of Dick Whittington, thrice Lord Mayor of London. Instead, it pitted a very dashing Dick (and not matter how I write that, it still sounds naughty) against the villainous King Rat, both trying to control the city of London, with Dick having the additional task of trying to find his fortune and woo the beautiful Alice, daughter of Councillor Krankie. Along the way he meets all sorts of fabulously funny Characters including wee Jimmy Krankie, Idle Jack, Fairy Bow Bells and Sarah the Cook. He also gains himself a Black Country Cat, Babbie the Tabby.

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There is so much to recommend Dick Whittington as good clean (albeit a little bit saucy) family entertainment this year. The cast is uniformly excellent, with John Barrowman the perfect leading man – handsome, talented and super funny with it. He is able supported by Panto Veterans The Krankies, who frankly never age and could probably do this in their sleep. They are side splittingly funny, especially Jeanette’s song ‘Picking on Me.’ Also hilarious is Birmingham panto fave Matt Slack, who, in partnership with Steve McFadden (great by the way, a really good, boo-worthy panto baddie) provides one of the funniest scenes of the night. I won’t spoil it, but it was all about Eastenders and I laughed until I cried.

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Panto needs to be magical, and this one truly was, with flying reindeer soaring above the auditorium, a rather frightening, huge Rat was flashing red eyes, and the Hippodrome’s trademark 3d feature, which this year was very impressive, a voyage under the sea, complete with a ‘Jaws’ shark looking for its dinner. These are the moments that stay with you long after you’ve left the theatre, and are what makes the ‘Brum Panto’ the best for miles around.

Christmas truly started in Birmingham last night. If you get the chance this Christmas, make sure you go and see Dick Whittington.

Dick Whittington Birmingham Hippodrome

Thu 22 Dec 2016 – Sun 29 Jan 2017

Click here for ticket and time information.