Katherine MacAlister chats to ex-Goodie Graeme Garden about penning this year’s panto – and trembling in the wings with first night nerves as the curtain goes up ...

GRAEME Garden looks exactly the same as he has always done, which is quite a feat considering he reached the pinnacle of his fame with the Goodies in the 70s, and he’s now 65. You’ll have seen him regularly since then featuring on comedy shows, radio programmes and TV, most of which he’s written.

But this year it’s the Chipping Norton Panto’s turn and Sleeping Beauty is the project which has had Graeme’s full attention. And with the box office doing record business he’s obviously still got what it takes to make people laugh.

But then, considering one of the Goodies’ biggest hits was The Goodies And The Beanstalk, we are obviously on familiar territory here.

“Yes, I suppose so,” Graeme laughs doubtfully, “but it was the Christmas special,” he adds. Graeme actually wrote the script for Sleeping Beauty 25 years ago, but when asked to resurrect his panto, found that it didn’t need much tweaking, proving that comedy is fairly timeless.

“Well, children get quite bored with jokes about banks, so all it needed was a bit of polishing and a bit of sprucing up,” he says.

Nevertheless, by the time it got to opening night, Graham was trembling in the wings alongside the actors. “Well you can’t blame anyone else if it goes wrong when you’re the writer,” he explains.

“But however tempting it was to retire back to base camp, I couldn’t leave them to go over the top on their own.”

Luckily, Sleeping Beauty has been going down a treat since it opened so Graeme is no danger of being hounded, which is just as well considering he lives nearby and his grand-daughter is coming to see it.

“I keep worrying about whether it’s too scary for her, because the princess has a bad spell cast on her and then there is the evil fairy, but none of the other children seemed to have minded so far,” he laughs.

“But writing a panto is a serious job. Chipping Norton has a great tradition of panto so you have to do it properly, without relying on a boy band member or famous comedian to get you through. But the cast is fantastic and a panto is the best way to lift the gloom,” he says.

Graeme has got three children, all grown-up now, with his son John being the keyboard player for The Scissor Sisters.

His second son is a conceptual artist in Sweden and their sister an assistant headteacher.

“They are all used to getting up and performing in front of large groups of people,” Grame says.

“But I have to say, with John in the Scissor Sisters, I get asked about him all the time. And yet he spent his entire childhood with people saying ‘isn’t your dad one of the Goodies?’, so now I can sympathise. The boot is on the other foot.”

l Sleeping Beauty runs until January 10 at The Theatre Chipping Norton. Box Office: 01608 642350.