Charming Dick is a very family un-friendly panto

Frisky and Mannish. Picture: Idil Sukan

Frisky and Mannish. Picture: Idil Sukan - Credit: Archant

BRIDGET GALTON talks to cabaret star Matthew Floyd Jones about donning prosthetics for his first pantomime which is definitely not family friendly

Matthew Floyd Jones has spent years on the cabaret circuit but this Christmas he’ll be strapping on prosthetic breasts for his first panto.

Playing the Wicked Witch in Charming Dick at the Cockpit Theatre he’ll also wear a prosthetic nose, and will belt out numbers from Wicked.

“She’s horrendous, evil, an absolute villain but I will be approaching it like I love her. You have to find something awesome about her,” says Jones who is better known as the manly half of double act Frisky and Mannish.

“I’ve got breast and hip padding plus a nose and chin prosthetic that comes off. I can’t say too much but there’s a transformation scene,”

Directed by Highgate performer Tim McArthur who also stars as Aunt Twankey (with a silent t) this adult, alternative take on the festive tradition transfers from LGBT venue the Royal Vauxhall Tavern after selling out last year.

Jones promises the story of entrepreneur Dick who comes to London to seek fame and fortune but ends up working in a launderette with his has-been cabaret star aunt will be full of hissing, booing, well known songs and innuendo.

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“It’s definitely not for children. It’s a raunchy comedy, a mix of innuendo, explicit and more traditional for adults to enjoy.”

Used to playfully parodying pop songs mixing unlikely artists and genres with his cabaret co-star Laura Corcoran, Jones is currently flying solo with projects like the panto.

“Working in the comedy and cabaret world I am used to being in a room full of people drinking and eating and there being no fourth wall. Panto celebrates the artifice, if anything, you are encouraged to look the audience directly in the eye. Everyone knows you are in a show, everyone knows it’s a man under the dress, there’s no lofty attempt to pretend we are in 18th century France, that’s the joy of it.”

Having done drag for the first time this year he found donning a frock strangely liberating.

“I didn’t think it was my world but I ended up really enjoying it,” he says.

“There are awful ways in which men can be attacked or beaten up for being feminine. Any gay man would agree it feels embarrassing to be seen as feminine, yet here’s this tradition where audiences want you to go as far as possible and wear a ridiculous dress. It’s not pretending to be a real woman - most women would be insulted if they thought that’s what we thought they were like, but it felt liberating to be able to do it after being a young gay boy wanting to hate that part of myself.”

Jones and Corcoran met in their first year at Oxford University and their act was formed accidentally in 2008 when friends asked them to do some songs for a charity fundraiser.

“We got the booking before we had an act. We thought we’d do something from Carousel, then something funny and silly came out of nowhere, from an unpressured situation, before we had a chance to think about it.” He adds: “We didn’t plan it and it’s been wonderful. I play piano, she’s a better singer, our skillsets complement each other.”

Like any good double act they’ve also developed an instinctive way of working.

“It’s almost intuitive. I know what she’s going to come in and say and what I’ll do in response.

“People often say how hard we work, how tight our timing is, but we don’t rehearse that much. It’s already there. To rehearse would dampen it.”

Charming Dick runs at The Cockpit in Gateforth St NW8 from December 6-23