“I’ve never worn bright blue cord clothes before!” laughs comedian Tim Vine. The king of the one liners is in high spirits as he inspects his costume for his forthcoming stint in the panto Dick Whittington at the New Wimbledon Theatre.
“I’m in a funny costume - which is my main role I think,” he adds cheerfully. “It’s a coloured cord jacket which rather sets the tone. It’s quite fetching in many ways.”
It is a welcome return to the stage for the comedian for whom Dick Whittington will be his fourth panto outing, and the second he’s done at Wimbledon and he says he’s excited about being back
“I’m looking forward to doing it again,” he says in a rare moment of seriousness. “The rehearsals are like work as you do long days but once you get to the theatre and are doing two shows a day and in front of these great audiences, it’s brilliant.
“I have to bite my lip a bit in rehearsals though as the director is constantly telling me off! So I will have to be on my best behaviour!
“We’ve only just started rehearsals though so who knows where the show will take us but I’ll probably sprinkle a few of my jokes and ad libs about, dust it all with magic and see if the audience likes it.
“It should be a lot of fun.”
This time he’s playing Idle Jack - “I’ve been typecast!” he says in mock horror - alongside Matthew Kelly as the Dame and Arlene Phillips as Fairy Bowbells.
“As Idle Jack I tend to do a lot of sitting around,” he laughs. “Can I be bothered with this scene or should I just lie down? Shouldn’t I be asleep at this point? Basically I become more and more inactive.
“Eventually I will be on a drip as I’m so lazy!” and he bursts out laughing again.
And this good humour is typical of Tim and a characteristic of our conversation, with lots of jokes and laughter.
So what persuaded Tim to give panto another go I ask.
“It’s good fun and I really enjoyed it last time so when they asked I said yes,” he says. “Last time I was working with Matthew Kelly and Linda Gray who was lovely and very sweet.
“She’d never done panto before so there was that glorious American confusion about what panto is - although to be honest it’s so ridiculous that I’m surprised it’s not an international thing!
“Besides, when you are in this line of work you have to do something.
“Although I did wonder about three days before I lost my freedom this time whether I should have spent my time playing crazy golf for the whole of December instead,” he adds chuckling.
“Seriously though I like to be busy and being on stage, cracking jokes is my job and I’m quite good at it so I wanted to do it again.
“It also suits my style of comedy - it’s very silly and the jokes are short and fit in to the scenes very easily. In fact it’s a bit like stand up in that you break the fourth wall and are looking the audience in the eyes.
“I also like it because unlike when you do a play, panto allows you to lark around - I don’t think you could do that in King Lear.”
And he then to my surprise and without any prompting, proceeds somewhat impressively to recite Lear’s entire speech from the storm scene.
“I went to see Simon Callow play Abanazar once and during the show he would break into Shakespeare,” he adds. “It was very funny.”
This year Tim’s working with Matthew again and Arlene Phillips, who is making her panto debut, and he says he’s looking forward to it. The only thing he admits to being nervous about is the dancing - not least given Arlene’s career as an award-winning choreographer and former Strictly judge. And he says this rules him out of ever taking part in the hit BBC TV show as his brother Jeremy did last year.
“I don’t think my knees could take it,” he says cheerfully. “Fortunately I’ve never been asked so it’s not going to happen!
“I’m sure Arlene will be helpful though when it comes to my dancing abilities!
“It will be funny because Jeremy will bring his family to see the show so he may give me a few tips. He has two daughters, the oldest of whom is 12 and just getting to that hilarious eye rolling stage.
“Fortunately his younger daughter still finds me hilarious so I hope they will laugh loudly when they see me on stage.
“My sister also has two kids and her youngest is four so I guess I’m mainly doing it for them.
“I think they are all coming - it will be a Vine group family outing!”
Dick Whittington is on at the New Wimbledon Theatre, Broadway, Wimbledon between Friday, December 9th and Sunday, January 15th, 2017. Visit www.atgtickets.com/newwimbledontheatre or call the box office on 0844 871 7646 for full listings.