It’s nearly panto time in Glasgow – oh, yes it is! Ahead of the opening of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at the King’s Theatre in Glasgow this Christmas, Johnny Mac took time out of rehearsals to tell Braw Theatre all about it!

Johnny Mac has fast cemented himself as a stalwart at Glasgow’s King’s Theatre pantomime, now treading the boards for his sixth consecutive pantomime at the venue – with a total of 22 years of pantomime now under his belt.

This year he’s playing Muddles, the castle skivvy and all-round daft boy, brought up by Nurse Bella (Elaine C Smith) alongside the beautiful Snow White (Blythe Jandoo). Ever the comedian, he describes Muddles as “a bit of an idiot – so there’s no acting required!”

Pantomime is a bit of an obsession for Johnny – who says “if I was to go to a psychiatrist, they’d have a lot to say…” but his love of the art form stems from “loads of happy memories from childhood going to pantomime”.

It was when he started youth theatre with his china – and co-star in The Francie and Josie Show – Liam Dolan that he began to perfect his craft.

Even after he’s finished the mammoth run at the King’s, he’ll take a mini panto tour of his own, soaking up as much as he can before the season ends.

“When it’s raining and miserable and everyone is back at their work, you just escape for a few hours to this magical place full of joy. It’s very inclusive – and everyone can get something from it.”

This year it’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at the King’s, and Johnny is fizzing with excitement for the job ahead. “I still can’t believe it. To be able to perform to a Glasgow audience on a stage where so many stars have gone before is unbelievable. To work with Elaine is amazing. I’ve learned so much for her.“

And it’s very much a family feel on stage and off in Glasgow. “It’s a 1700 seater theatre but you walk into Joan and Michael on the stage door and it just feels like a family”, he says.

“I don’t know how long this run at the King’s will go on for me but I love every minute of it. When I think that people like Rikki Fulton, Stanley Baxter, Gerard Kelly have gone before me, it’s such a privilege to say I’ve done six years of it. And I hope it never ends!.“

This time last year, Johnny wasn’t just preparing for his fifth panto season at the King’s – he was also about to become a dad to Romia, with his wife Stephanie – herself a choreographer and actor.

Steph was starring as the Genie in Aladdin at Glasgow’s Pavilion Theatre last year, and did so until just before she gave birth. By that time, Johnny’s run at the King’s had come to an end and he “hit the panic button” when Steph suggested he come and see her perform.

“I said love you and I’m really happy you enjoyed the pantomime but I would just sit there for two hours in terror that something would happen!”

There was no need for the panic, of course, and Johnny and Steph welcomed Romia to the world on 20th January.

This year, while Johnny treads the boards at the King’s, his wife is just as busy – choreographing the Pavilion in Glasgow and the Macrobert Arts Centre in Stirling, as well as running a dance school with 170 pupils.

Anyone who happens to be at Snow White on Christmas Eve be warned – if Johnny is overwhelmed with emotion, it’s because his daughter will be coming to see him. “If you’d told me that when I was 10, I think my head would have exploded. Steph even has a Snow White costume for her so we’ll hopefully get a wee picture!”

As if that wasn’t pressure enough, Johnny is once again providing additional material for Alan McHugh’s panto script. “It’s very daunting! I’ve always done my opening spot and little bits, and what the script is like on day one is very different to day 14.”

It’s a process that Elaine C Smith and Darren Brownlie, Johnny’s co-stars, also feed into.

“It never really stops. We start talking about it in February, then Alan [McHugh] gets a draft together and then we add bits right until the end. Having great comedy minds like Darren and Elaine is invaluable, and Kathryn our director really supports us through that process.”

At the end of the day, it’s about delivering the best pantomime for the King’s in Glasgow, he says.

But even while fully submerged in Pantoland, Johnny’s already thinking of the next challenge.

“I’ll be taking a bit of time off with the family then getting right into writing again – for Pirates”, the Easter show Johnny performs in Great Yarmouth’s Hippodrome, where he’s had a residency with Jack Jay.

He’s also back to his immensely popular tribute to Scottish variety legends Francie and Josie, with his pal from all those years ago, Liam Dolan.

Even when talking about an upcoming stag do in Las Vegas, Johnny’s mind is on seeing a few shows along the way.

“It’s like a bike going down the hill – legs are flailing, arms are flailing but it’s brilliant fun!”

Until then, rehearsals continue before the curtain rises at the King’s in Glasgow on Saturday 2nd December.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at King’s Theatre, Glasgow from Saturday 2nd December 2023 until Sunday 7th January 2024

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Image Credit: Richard Campbell, King’s Panto 2022/23