A Brush with panto fame
DICK Whittington's cat doesn't get the cream of the lines in panto this time out.
There is a certain posh but cheeky fox who is delighting the younger members of the audience in the Theatre Royal Plymouth seasonal show.
Basil Brush is enjoying the limelight in his tenth panto since the veteran of children's TV made his comeback on the BBC 12 years ago.
Audiences are enjoying his singing – but probably only if they are tone deaf.
"My voice has been known to make grown men cry," he says. "They cry, 'Stop it! We can't take it any longer!' Boom! Boom!"
Basil plays Alderman Foxwarren, father to the love interest, Alice (Mia Lincoln). He's a hit, too, with fellow star Christopher Biggins, who has the role of the dame as Sarah the Cook.
"I have worked with Mr Biggins in panto before," says Basil. "He and I are old friends.
"I stuffed him in the final of the Weakest Link, in a pantomime special. I'm rather good at quizzes."
The story of the young man making his fortune in London – which continues at the Theatre Royal until January 19 – is a return to his panto debut a decade ago.
"My first was Dick Whittington at the Richmond Theatre. My favourite is Cinder... no, Dick Whittington, because I'm in it this year," he adds, diplomatically.
"I prefer live shows to television. You see the whites of their eyes and you get instant reaction from the children. On the television, when you tell a joke you hear... nothing."
But being out and about does have its risks. He has concerns over hunting.
"Don't mention the 'h' word," he pleads. "There is a lot of it down in the South West.
"Fortunately I am an urbane fox and I spend a lot of my time in the city."
There is a Plymouth connection to Basil: a previous "helper" (don't mention puppets; the fox is always "in character") was Ivor Owen. The actor retired to the city where he died in 2000.
But an encounter with Lord Mayor of Plymouth Michael Wright before the Theatre Royal run almost brought on a nasty turn for the usually irrepressibly chirpy fox when he spotted the fur on the civic leader's ceremonial robes.
"I did think it was an old auntie of mine at first," says Basil, recalling the episode with a shiver, before regain his composure.
"But I was more interested in the gold chain around his neck. I wouldn't mind getting my hands on that."