Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Funnyman's Panto Run!

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Funnyman's Panto Run!

Article excerpt

Byline: By Keith Newton Evening Gazette

Stu Francis has crushed more grapes than the average wine press and ripped enough tissues to keep Kleenex in business.

His infectious brand of comedy and quirky catchphrases involving grapes, tissues, dolls' houses and Tonka trucks have kept audiences laughing since his big TV breakthrough in the original Comedians in the early Seventies.

Late twenty and thirtysomethings might also remember him as the last host of the show that announced itself with the words: "It's Friday, it's five to five, it's Crackerjack."

Right now, he is doing what he does so brilliantly - playing comic lead in pantomime.

This year, he is Muddles in Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs at the Forum Theatre in Billingham.

"It's about my ninth Snow White and I've done 20 odd pantomimes in all," he said.

"My first one was Robinson Crusoe. We had six chimps. We had them for the tea party and one of them was a big lad. If he was in a bad mood, he used to take a swipe at you."

This is Stu's first pantomime visit to Billingham, but he has played the Civic at Darlington three times.

"I first did Babes In the Wood, then Snow White with Linda Lusardi, and then Cinderella four years ago."

Muddles is not in the original story, nor in the Disney version.

"He's here to put some more comedy into the panto," says Stu. "He's the village idiot who's in love with Snow White."

Stu has strong ideas about pantomimes. "They have to be full of energy, that's the key."

He fully expects to find the Forum run a struggle at some point. "Illness," he explains.

"Someone always gets flu or a bad cold and then it just sweeps through the whole cast and maintaining the high energy level becomes particularly hard. You just have to keep taking the antibiotics."

Stu was turned on to comedy by the circus.

"I wanted to be a clown. My first job was looking after 12 Shetland ponies before I got the chance to get into costume and do the red nose routines."

Years later he was playing ringmaster at the Tower Circus in Blackpool when a special guest arrived - Princess Diana. …

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