‘There’s Nothing Like A Dame’ says Highgate panto star Tim McArthur

Highgate performer Tim McArthur is selling his calendar of pantomime dames to raise funds for The To

Highgate performer Tim McArthur is selling his calendar of pantomime dames to raise funds for The Toy Project in Archway. Picture credit Philippe Barbour - Credit: Archant

Not only is he preparing to stage ‘a heartwarming Christmas show’ at Marylebone’s Cockpit Theatre, but he’s shot a charity Panto Dame calendar in his back garden

Highgate performer Tim McArthur is selling his calendar of pantomime dames to raise funds for The To

Highgate performer Tim McArthur is selling his calendar of pantomime dames to raise funds for The Toy Project in Archway picture credit: Philippe Barbour - Credit: Archant

There’s Nothing Like A Dame - or so they say - and one seasoned panto performer is determined to give us our annual fix of cross-dressing and innuendo.

Despite the latest lockdown, the show is going on for Highgate director and performer Tim McArthur, who is busy preparing two Christmas productions in the hope they won’t be cancelled.

In the meantime, he’s raided his dressing-up box for a panto dame calendar.

“I had a feeling this would go on for months so I thought if people couldn’t come to see the panto, the Dame can at least hang on their fridge for a year,” he says.

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“One sunny day I raided my wardrobe and we shot it on an iPhone to make a fun calender with cheeky quotes.”

Having spent the last 10 festive seasons in a dress, McArthur says: “Panto is all about family coming together to be entertained by silly humour, a story of good and evil, and a man in a dress - my Dame is definitely a man in a frock.

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“When I played my first dame, the director said ‘we treat this as if it’s Shakespeare.’ For many kids panto is their first theatre experience and there’s nothing like being part of an audience watching a live performance.”

Between lockdowns, McArthur has performed his one man show, and is about to start rehearsing for adult panto Pricked at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, and A Perfect Christmas at the Cockpit in Gateforth Street, Marylebone - due to open early December if the lockdown lifts.

“Under the rules, rehearsals can still take place,” says McArthur, “but I don’t think the Government gets the logistics of the rehearsal room or backstage, where it’s hard to distance from dressers or wig fitters and where there’s little space in the wings.

“We can’t encourage the audience to sing or interact so for Pricked the audience have to press buzzers with ‘Oh Not it Isn’t’ and ‘It’s Behind You,’ and we will try to replace words with physical gestures.”

At The Cockpit he promises something “really magical and festive”.

“People feel sad about Christmas being cancelled so I wanted to give people the dream of Christmas with a traditional entertainment and no mention of coronovirus. It’s a heartwarming revue with four of us and a piano doing festive poems and songs with lovely harmonies.

“We need live theatre for our mental health, we need to laugh, cry and escape.”

But having just had to reschedule a rosta of cabaret performers for January, he’s gloomy about the future.

“We’re trying to stay positive, but it’s horrendous. I was really angry at first but now I feel despair for my industry, for producers and venues trying to keep the lights on in such uncertain times. I wish there’d been more clarity, honesty and vision from the Government - I sometimes feel they think we do this as a jolly hobby.

“The billion pound recovery fund is for venues not performers. I understand why but my heart is bleeding for them and I don’t think we will be out of the woods until 2022. Society has to learn to live with the virus and adapt. It’s not tenable to keep locking down.”

A Perfect Christmas runs at the Cockpit from December 7-13 and December 23 and 24.


Order a calendar from TheDame2021@gmail.com with a percentage of profits going to The Toy Project in Archway Road which recyles new and used toys for care homes, refuges, prisons, nurseries, community centres, and low income families.

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