A Dame to Delight
Ahead of his starring role in Mother Goose at the Arts Theatre, we catch up with Cambridge’s number one pantomime dame Matt Crosby
Matt Crosby’s love affair with pantomime began, like many of us, in childhood, when he became spellbound by the kaleidoscopic lights and colours of the spectacle.
It was during this time that he experienced a formative moment to which he attributes his long-lasting career as Cambridge’s leading lady, having been the Arts Theatre’s pantomime dame for over 15 years.
“I remember never being one of the children who got picked to sing from the song sheet at the end of the show and get a goody bag,” he recalls. “Perhaps that’s why I’ve gone into panto – to find out what’s in those goody bags after all!”
Since then, Matt has flourished under the wing of actor and comedian Michael Fenton Stevens, “My first mum in Cambridge!” as well as writer, director and resident dame Brad Fitt, who have both overseen his development to become the dame he is today.
Two actors with very different styles, their influences remain years later. “Michael would obviously be a bloke in a dress, whereas Brad would go all out with the makeup – he had the most beautiful face as a dame!”
It was producer (and now CEO of the Arts Theatre) Dave Murphy who finally took the risk of letting Matt take on a dame role. “Dave always had so much faith in me. Every year he still turns to me and says: ‘You’re our dame!’”
This year, Matt will be treading the boards as Gertie Goose in Mother Goose – a show described by Sir Ian McKellen at this year’s Pantomime Awards as ‘the King Lear of the pantomime’.
It wasn’t until he read the script that Matt fully understood what he meant. “It’s a huge role with a lot of lines to learn! It’s so exciting, though, because Cambridge has never done Mother Goose before.”
Without giving too much away, Matt will be leaning into the ‘mumsy’ aspects of his character in this year’s performance, foregrounding what is ‘a loving and caring lady’ rather than just a man in a dress.
Aside from the sheer talent of the team, the show’s greatest calling card is how it appeals to a Cambridge audience, with a very English setting littered with relatable local references. Though lines are still to be learnt, the city’s favourite panto star is aching to get the show on the road.
“There comes a time when you’ve got to hang up your bra and no longer be the Cambridge dame to let someone else have a go. But it’s definitely not yet.”
Mother Goose will be playing at the Arts Theatre until 7 January and is suitable for all ages – book your tickets now: cambridgeartstheatre.com