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Page last updated at 12:49 GMT, Wednesday, 11 November 2009
A 'lad' for all seasons

By Tim Dale
BBC York & North Yorkshire

Martin Barrass, Suzy Cooper, Berwick Kaler. York Theatre Royal pantomime
Martin Barrass is an integral part of the York panto team

It was in the mid 1980s that Martin Barrass first joined Berwick Kaler on the Theatre Royal stage. Since then he's played the daft son to Berwick's Dame almost every year.

Martin, like David Leonard and Suzy Cooper, is an integral part of the team and it's hard to imagine a production without him. In 2006 he was briefly 'promoted' playing Berwick's Ugly Sister in Cinderella.

What keeps him doing it? "Well I usually find myself unexpectedly available. It is kind of thrown together."

Martin has got the art of playing the 'daft' son of Kaler's Dame down to a fine art.

Martin Barrass
Martin has perfected playing the 'daft' son to Berwick's dame

Over the years, partly due to its enormous popularity, the run has got longer, "I think when we started out it was around six weeks, but during the millennium show we had a power cut just before the slapstick routine. Berwick would have done it in the car park, but he had to announce that we couldn't continue and we lost two shows.

"The theatre decided to put those shows back in the final week, including three shows on the final Saturday, which nearly killed us! So now they've added the extra week or so just in case.

"It is exhausting and the vocal chords become like leather, but you find some way of doing it. Berwick gives it everything so you have to get through it and give it your all."

Martin trained at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art, which has now merged with the Central School of Speech and Drama. When he attended though, remains a mystery. "I went at nine every morning." is all he'll say!

Like the rest of the panto regulars Martin is a "jobbing" actor with regular appearances at the Theatre Royal and across the country. He's also appeared in many popular television shows.

The rewards for returning to York each Christmas are obvious to Martin, "People always say we look as if we're all having a great time and what is wonderful is when someone comes up to you and says 'I saw the third show and the 68th and it's still as fresh as ever'.

"That's what we're aiming for, to keep it as fresh as ever throughout the run. Just trying to keep up the standards."

Martin is appearing in Humpty Dumpty at York Theatre Royal from 10 December 2009 to 30 January 2010. Visit the theatre's website for more information.



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