Anyone who thought the great and the good appearing in panto were just on an end of year jolly should think again - at least when you have a two-time Bafta nominee and Olivier-winner leading the cast.

Educating Rita and The Pianist actress Maureen Lipman is set to play Carabosse, the wicked fairy, in Sleeping Beauty at Richmond Theatre this Christmas and promises to approach it as rigorously as anything else in her 50-year career.

The star told us: “I am looking forward to finding who Carabosse is as a human being. I’m looking forward to seeing the kids and watching them experience what I experienced when I was an eight year old in Hull, which is a kind of magic that you can’t get from watching a screen.

“It is the fairy tales they have been read in bed coming to life. I want to find a way to be pretty scary without actually ruining their childhood.”

Lipman said she will strip back the layers to find ‘the essence of the person’ beyond what appears in the script.

She said: “I will have to find why she is such a nasty piece of work. Who did something to this person in their youth or childhood to make them be so vengeful and mean and cruel?

“I will approach it in the same way as I would playing Lady M in the Scottish play.

“You have got to treat these things with respect. It is a traditional, very, very old story and part of the fabric of all of our youths and it is relevant as I suppose in the end it is about going through puberty and finding love.”

Sleeping Beauty will be Lipman’s third pantomime and her appearance this year is inspired to perform to the youngsters in her own family.

She said: “This year I am doing it because I have a four year old granddaughter, and a little one-and-a-half year old who is too young for this, and I thought I am probably not going to have two shows a day in my for much longer.

“It is in London so I don’t have to leave my dear ones at Christmastime and be on my own with a Lyons cupcake on Christmas Day.”

Perhaps more than other forms of theatre, pantomimes move with the times and rely on contemporary fashions and references to be as relevant as possible to their young audiences.

So it is no surprise that Sleeping Beauty will be dramatically different to Lipman’s star-studded panto debut.

She said: “The first pantomime I was ever in was written by Michael Palin and Terry Jones at the Watford Palace.

“I played the Genie of the Ring and it was the sixties so I wore blue silk pants and lots of beads and bells and a blue fizzy wig and I came on on a pogo stick. It had some very good jokes.

“This time one will have to bear in mind that it is post-Adele and post-Rihanna and post-Taylor Swift and those things will have to emerge.”

Maureen Lipman stars in Sleeping Beauty at Richmond Theatre from December 2 to January 8. Go to

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