Festive work will not be a drag for Buckley councillor as he plays panto dame

Reporter:

Rory Sheehan

A TOWN councillor is leading a double-life as a panto dame this winter – as a celebrated comic predicted he would.

Buckley Town Council member and former mayor Cllr Andy Williams, who represents the Bistre West ward, is to star alongside Coronation Street’s Ryan Thomas (Jason Grimshaw) as panto dame Mrs Smee in Peter Pan at Venue Cymru in Llandudno.

It is a role the late legendary comic Les Dawson told Cllr Williams he was destined to play, as he juggles council meetings and residents’ concerns with rehearsals.

Buckley born and bred, Well Street resident Cllr Williams has served on the town council for six years, but been a professional comic, impressionist and performer for more than three decades.

He said: “I’ve been very
lucky.

“During my first term on the council I was the mayor.

”My love of performing started at school with the Eisteddfods, I used to do impressions of the teachers and it went from there.”

Performing under stage name Andy Jones, Cllr Williams – described as a cross between Eric Morecambe and Tommy Cooper – formed a double act called Powys and Jones and was managed by Dennis Chritchley, who also looked after such figures as Russ Abbot and Keith Harris.

As well as a series on ITV
Wales, he toured with the late Barry White and his Love Unlimited Orchestra, and compared a royal gala show attended by Her Majesty the Queen and Prince Philip.

Cllr Williams has appeared in panto for 36 years, but this is only his second time as a dame – a role Dawson told him he would be perfect for.

He said: “Years ago I was sat in Blackpool with Les Dawson who was working for the same company.

“He said: ‘You’re going to be a good dame one year, you’re a funny man with funny bones – people say funny things but other people say things funny’.

“It turns out he was right, you’ve got to be able to play a bloke in a frock and the audience have got to know it’s a bloke as it adds to the comedy.”

Peter Pan opens at Venue Cymru on December 10, but rehearsals only start on November 27.

Cllr Williams said: “I only
met the other cast and Ryan at the press launch the other week.

“We’ll have about a week to prepare, an intense period of long days from 10am to 10pm.

“We do 42 performances, 12 shows a week, six days a week, two shows a day. The last one is at 5pm so I can be back in Buckley by 9pm.

“My family are used to it. I used to be put in Cardiff so I’d hire a flat and they’d come down for Christmas.

“I’ve got two daughters and a son and when they were young, they just accepted it.

“Some of their classmates parents worked for Vauxhall or British Aerospace. I worked in panto.

“It’s the same for my grandchildren now, who are eight, six, three and one. They love it, although last Christmas one of them wanted to know why I was dressed as a woman.

“I still get the nerves beforehand but as soon as I step on stage they’re gone.

“There is no better feeling than standing there in front of the audience.

“People from Buckley do come to the shows, so if I know they’re in the audience I’ll make sure they get a shout-out and make a few jokes about Buckley.

Cllr Williams has appeared in panto with rugby legend Gareth Thomas, boxer Frank Bruno, John Barrowman and soap stars from Neighbours and Emmerdale.

Throughout his career he says he has never thought about leaving Buckley, even when London came calling.

He said: “You have to travel wherever you work but I wouldn’t dream of leaving Buckley.

“I wanted to be on the council so I could give something back.

“With my children and grandchildren here, it’s about their future too.

“My children are here, my grandchildren are here, and I’ve now got a private hire business so I don’t travel away as much as I used to, to London and all over Europe.

“As a performer you have to be an all-rounder, and once you’re in entertainment, you never stop.

“So I can’t see myself ever retiring – unless the phone stops ringing.”

Peter Pan runs at Venue Cymru until December 31.

For more details visit – venuecymru.co.uk/peter-pan

Email:

rory.sheehan@nwn.co.uk

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