Writer Philip’s not meek about playing a dame

SOUTH Shields playwright Philip Meeks is donning a dress and wig to take to the stage.

The writer and actor will be channelling his alter ego as he plays the dame during this year’s Sunderland Empire pantomime.

Philip has drawn inspiration from his past as a teacher for his starring role as Nurse Penny Well in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

He came up with the name after his time spent working at the old Pennywell School in Sunderland.

He said: “I taught English there and I was an awful teacher.

“It was like a parody, the only time I came to life back then was in the staffroom.”

Philip will star alongside stage star Su Pollard and former EastEnders actor Matt Lapinskas in the panto.

The actor, whose brother is former Emmerdale actor Dale Meeks, said: “I’m absolutely thrilled to be at the Empire.

“My brother Dale has played Widow Twanky there, but this will be my first time as a dame there.

“I love being a dame and can’t wait to start.

“I think the best thing about the role is the rapport you build up with the crowd, you become part of what they expect.”

Despite the show not opening until December, Philip is already in the process of designing some colourful costumes for the show.

He said: “A dame’s dress is like a clown’s face, everyone has their own look.

“Mine is all about block colour and good wigs.”

In the meantime, the former Emmerdale scriptwriter is turning his attention to his new play, Keeping Up With The Joans.

The comedy opened at the Customs House, South Shields, on Thursday and runs until tonight, before heading to the Edinburgh Fringe and then to London’s Greenwich Theatre.

It stars Susan Penhaligon, famous for her role in 70s drama Bouquet of Barbed Wire, and Doctor Who sidekick Katy Manning as eccentric rival amateur actresses manipulated by sinister care worker Gary into facing the traumatic past that ruined their once precious friendship.

Philip, who now lives in London, said: “I’m thrilled with it.

“Going up to Edinburgh is really nail-biting as you are only given a day to tech.

“But this works out perfectly as on the way to Edinburgh we are stopping at the Customs House to preview.

“I was brought up in Cleadon Village, but I see South Shields as my hometown as my family are there and I get to stay at my mam’s.”

Philip is no stranger to the Edinburgh Festival.

His sell-out Edinburgh Festival Fringe play Kiss Me Honey, Honey! won a Fringe First at the Edinburgh Fringe last year.

Speaking about the inspiration for his latest production, he said: “At some point or other I’ve been a member of all the amateur groups in the North East, which helped to inspire this play. It’s an affectionate take on amateur theatre, while also getting in a sly dig.

“It’s about two women who were in an amateur group a long time ago, but they have a secret past. They meet again in an old people’s home, many years later.

“It’s a play about loss of self and a comedy about Alzheimer’s and people going through some form of dementia. I’m sick of age being dealt with as though it’s the end and depressing, so I wanted this to be comedy.

“There’s a lot to laugh about in old age. If you laugh, then they laugh, but if you panic, they panic.”

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs runs at the Sunderland Empire from Friday, December 12, to Sunday, January 4.

Tickets cost from £11.90. To book, go to www.atgtickets.com/sunderland or call the box office on 0844 871 3022.

Twitter: @shieldsgazette