When asked to be in panto one of our best-loved stars always answered: “Oh no I won’t!” Until now.
For over five decades, award-winning actor Robert Lindsay has resisted the knockabout fun and laughter of pantomime.
But this year the My Family star has had a change of heart because the show will raise money for the hospital that saved his daughter’s life.
Next month Robert, who has performed Shakespeare and starred alongside the likes of Sir Derek Jacobi, will play villain Hook on stage in Peter Pan.
Robert, 68, said: “I’ve always said I’d never do one, mainly because I don’t want to work over Christmas. It was never part of my overall plan.”
Robert Lindsay and daughter Sydney
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But when he realised the royalties from Peter Pan have been going to London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital since 1929, he jumped at the chance to get involved.
Robert revealed how the hospital saved the life of his daughter Sydney when she was child.
He said: “I think she picked up some form of amoebic dysentery from a dirty swimming pool on a holiday we had.
“It was an awful time. We were frightened and she was frightened. It was only when we got to Great Ormond Street when we had a scan and we realised she was going to be saved. She was in there for two weeks.”
Sydney, Robert’s daughter with actress Diana Weston, is now 30 and an actress and writer. Robert has never forgotten the help the hospital gave her.
Robert’s daughter Sydney was saved by GOSH staff
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He said: “I saw the most extraordinary people dealing with the most extraordinary illnesses and it blew my mind.”
Although Peter Pan will be his first panto, versatile Robert has a wealth of experience to draw on.
His comic roles include beret- wearing anarchist Wolfie in 70s sitcom Citizen Smith and disgruntled dad Ben Harper in My Family.
He has won awards for his musical stage roles, including Fagin in Oliver!, and a BAFTA for the 1991 dark TV comedy G.B.H.
He has even played ex PM Tony Blair in the Channel 4 satire The Trial of Tony Blair.
Robert in The Trial of Tony Blair
(Image: Channel 4)
And Robert, who fell in love with the magic of panto as a boy, is certainly fit enough for his new role.
He said: “You have to sign a medical form if you’re doing panto and I answered no to every single question – so I’m fine, fit, able to fly and able to scream at kids.
“You can’t do panto if you’re not fit. At my age it’s much nicer to be working I think than sitting at home and wallowing in self pity because you’ve turned another year older. The amount of friends and family who are all pleading with me to gets tickets for the pantomime that couldn’t be bothered to come and see a Terence Rattigan play down in Bath… it’s really interesting.”
Robert is married to dancer and presenter Rosemarie Ford, 56. They have two sons – Samuel, 19, and James, 15 – who seem more interested in the stars their parents work with than their mum and dad’s careers.
Robert played dad Ben in sitcom My Family
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Robert said the boys were struck dumb when they met Game of Thrones star Tara Fitzgerald. And when they heard Robert could work with the comedian Jack Whitehall, they insisted that he went ahead and did so.
This summer Robert worked on Maleficent 2 with Angelina Jolie. He said: “Sam came on set, he’s Mr Cool, 6ft 2in, rugby player. I said, ‘This is Angelina’ and I watched an 18-year-old boy become about four years of age.”
Off screen, Robert loves to tweet but takes Twitter trolls in his stride by deleting their messages. He said: “I did get into a habit of responding which Miss Rowling [Harry Potter author JK] does very beautifully. I did make some very early mistakes and am banned from going on Twitter after 10pm having had a drink.
“But I love Twitter, I’m fascinated by it, it feels very communal and you meet some great people.”
As Wolfie Smith in Citizen Smith
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Robert recently spoke out against disgraced Hollywood giant Harvey Weinstein for allegedly blocking his film career after he confronted him during the filming of Strike It Rich back in 1990.
Robert is also vocal on conservation and animal rights’ issues, and is the patron of his local Dogs Trust.
One route he isn’t keen to go down is reality TV. He said: “I get offered Strictly every year, I guess because I’ve been on the TV so long.” He said he did not see the appeal of I’m A Celeb but appreciated it is really popular.
“My boys watch everything, so I find out from them what’s going on.
“I’m just getting old, I don’t remember people’s names – I just hope I remember my lines,” Robert added with a chuckle.
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