Dillie Keane has the magic touch!

IT MIGHT not sound like the best piece of casting but Dillie Keane is sure it will work out just fine.

The acerbic songstress from Fascinating Aida and star of Grumpy Old Women will star in Jack and the Beanstalk at Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre as the Good Fairy!

“I’m not really the best Good Fairy material,” she laughs. “I told the director [Gerry Tebbutt]: ‘I’m not one of nature’s good fairies, I’m too bad-tempered… but I thought if I can make the fairy my own, then we can have a lot of fun.

“So, she’s there on sufferance. She’s really retired but there’s been a mix-up and she’s an emergency stand-in, and I love doing it. I’m aiming to play her as a cross between Peggy Mount and Joyce Grenfell.”

In any case, despite her reputation from appearing on TV and stage in Grumpy Old Women, she insists: “I’m not at all grumpy in real life.”

Dillie says: “On the TV show we were interviewed about various subjects and it was nicely edited to make us look funny, and for the stage show we followed a brilliant script written by Jenny Éclair and Judith Holder.

“Also, my stage persona in Fascinating Aida seems to be grumpy, but I like to think I’m thoughtful and rather a cheerful soul really. I can be irritable but I’m not really grumpy.

“If you’re 63 and you can’t remember a telephone number, it’s not because you’re old – you probably couldn’t remember it 30 years ago! And people have always been rude in shops, it’s not a new thing. I’m very philosophical and tend to be quite cheery about my life.”

Dillie has not been a panto regular but says there were a host of reasons she decided to take the plunge this year. She explains: “Well, firstly, they asked me and I thought it sounded like fun.

“The Yvonne Arnaud is one of the best-run theatres in the country – it’s run by lovely people, it’s Guildford and my old buddy Kit (Hesketh-Harvey) is in it [playing the character Dastardly Dick]. So there were a lot of things to make me say yes.

“Also, things have been rocked off centre for us because Adele (Anderson), my buddy from Fascinating Aida is unwell. So, I’m in the job market again, which is good for me but terrifying. So far I’m still breathing.”

She then adds as an afterthought: “Besides, I like working at Christmas. It gets me out of all those boring parties. I can say ‘Oh, sorry, I’m busy performing’.”

Dillie will get Christmas Day off from the long Jack and the Beanstalk run to go home to Oxfordshire but says: “The one thing I’m obsessive about is somebody else putting up my tree. I know I’ll get home and say all the decorations are in the wrong place.

“I’ll go home on Christmas Eve, stuff the turkey, fall asleep and then get up early to cook. The bread sauce is already made, the stuffing is made and in the freezer, all the presents are bought and wrapped, my cards are labelled – I can’t think of anything that’s not done.”

As for gifts she’d like, Dillie muses: “People are always safe with books, book tokens and theatre tokens. In fact, if I had hundreds of pounds of theatre tokens I wouldn’t need anything else!”

Dillie Keane will play the Good Fairy in Jack and the Beanstalk from tomorrow (Friday, December 4)until Sunday, January 3.

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