THE GRAND DAME OF ALL DAMES
The word legend can often be over used or awarded too easily but in the wonderful world of panto it has never been more appropriate than when used to describe Christopher Biggins - A true legend of pantomime and our first inductee into our Hall of Fame.
'' A dame must have no vanity – she must be as daft as your auntie and as warm as your granny''
Born Christopher Kenneth Biggins on 16th December 1948 in Lancashire he is affectionately known as 'Biggins' and he has appeared in pantomime every year since 1965, the only exceptions being the 2007/08 season whilst he appeared in ‘I’m A Celebrity’ and the 2016/17 season for which he gave himself a well earnt rest ahead of performing in his last ever pantomime for the 2017/18 season.
Biggins has always lived the panto life to the full as soon as the season kicks in and on a two panto day he would arrive at 12noon and would not leave until gone 10pm or 11pm at night, and all that time the make-up would stay on between performances. There is always time for a snack from M&S and a bit of a sleep between shows though to the half hour pre show call when the wardrobe lady would arrive with another outlandish Dame costume for him to slip into.
The world of panto has changed dramatically since Biggins first graced the stage. Health and safety will often prevent sweets from being thrown out into the audience; this is now considered to be dangerous you never know when you might concuss a child with a low flying jelly baby! and when it comes to his favourite part of the performance - the song sheet! Children come onto the stage to join the fun but he says you can no longer pat them on the head! Maybe it is the performers who need protecting though, on more than one occasion the little darlings who step up on to the stage for that song sheet moment have vomited and one occasion Biggins in the guise of the dame simply said 'Oh never mind' to try and help the child over the embarrassment, he then proceeded to do it for a second time over the footlights.
From 1974-1977 Biggins appeared in the BBC comedy series Porridge alongside Ronnie Barker where he played inmate Lukewarm. Lukewarm is a young man with a calm and personable demeanour. The circumstances that brought him to be in the prison are unknown although in one episode - The Porridge Christmas Special, "No Way Out" - he successfully relieved Mr. Barrowclough of his wristwatch, in a manner strongly suggestive of a skilled pickpocket. He is known to be gay, and has a boyfriend called Trevor on the outside. Lukewarm did keep the cell nice and clean and was often seen knitting.
Rentaghost was a cult children's TV show which launched originally in 1976 and the series centered on the antics of a number of ghosts who worked for a firm called Rentaghost, which rented out the ghosts for various tasks. Biggins joined the cast from 1977 - 1980 playing Adam Painting who frequently appears in episodes and tries, with limited success, to involve the ghosts in his latest business enterprise. Also appearing in the series were Michael Staniforth, Edward Brayshaw, Ann Emery, Moll Weir and Sue Nicholls. Biggins looks back at his time working on this series with great fondness and has described it as the most fun job and enjoyable time in his career.
On Safari was a children's game show series set in the jungle that aired on the ITV network for four series from 1982 until 1984. The show was hosted by Biggins and for the first season, was co-hosted by future Eastenders actress Gillian Taylforth. All four series were recorded at the TVS studios in Southampton. Each week three teams (two teams in later series) consisting of a celebrity guest and a child played in a series of games in different jungle settings (i.e. swamps, venus fly traps etc.) and the team with the most points at the end of the show were the winners. The child from the winning team won a major prize, while the losing children went away with consolation prize
In 1984 Biggins was a regular face on prime time ITV working with his close friend Cilla Black on Surprise Surprise.The premise involved surprising members of the public with long-held wishes, setting up tricks to fool members of the public, prank calls to people and reuniting guests with long-lost loved ones.
In 1992 Biggins took on the role of Rev. Johnathon Green in the TV version of the classic board game Cluedo. The role had previously been played by Richard Wilson and Derek Nimmo and Nicholas Parsons would later go on to play the role. Each week, a reenactment of a murder at the stately home Arlington Grange of a visiting guest was played and, through a combination of interrogating the suspects (of whom only the murderer could lie) and deduction, celebrity guests had to discover who committed the murder, which of six weapons and in which room it was committed, whilst viewers were invited to play along at home.
In 1999 Biggins was surprised by Michael Aspel at a curtain call of the pantomime Mother Goose on the stage of the Theatre Royal in Brighton when he was presented with the big red book and became the recipient of an edition of This is Your Life. Amongst the guests appearing to pay tribute were Cilla Black, Gillian Taylforth, Bea Arthur, Paula Wilox, Bonnie Langford, Barbara Windson, Joan Collins and Lynda Bellingham.
In 2003 Biggins was back behind bars, but this time for a 2 episode guest stint playing himself on the 5th season of ITV's series Bad Girls. After the inmates take his character hostage he goes on to form an unlikely friendhip with inmate Buki Lester, even going as far as to reuinite her with her long lost son and then inviting them to live with him.
In 2007 Biggins took part in series 7 of the ITV show I'm a Celebrity Get me our of Here! He was competing against the likes of Cerys Matthews, Janice Dickinson, Katie Hopkins and Rodney Marsh. He would go on to win the series and be crowned King of the Jungle. Talking of his time on the gruelling series he said
"It's been a wonderful, wonderful experience and I can't believe that I'm here, that I've done it.
"I've made wonderful friends and I've done wonderful things that I never thought I would do. Unbelievable fun, it was just the best.
"There was a bit of friction but listen, you put 11 people together and there's bound to be friction."
In 2009 reality and acting crossed over as Biggins appeared as himself or at least send up version of himself) in the BBC dark comedy thriller series Psychoville where he played a pantomime director in the middle of putting on a production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. He made an appearance in both series 1 and 2 where he played a camped up Director who would strut around the theatre shouting instructions at cast and crew. The series was penned by League of Gentlemen creater Steve Pemberton wo also starred in the series along with Dawn French, Reece Shearsmith, Jason Tomkins and Daisy Haggard.
In 2014 Biggins took to the kitchen to show off his culinary skills on the BBC series Celebrity Masterchef alongside Sophie Thompson, Todd Carty, Kiki Dee and Wayne Sleep to name just a few. Although he did not impress judges enough to win but he did become a semi finalist and as with all of his work he bought along a touch of pantomime and proved to be thoroughly entertaining.
In July 2016 Biggins entered the Celebrity Big Brother house on Channel 5, reportedly as one of the highest paid housemates to date. His fellow housemates included Ricky Norwood, James Whale and Sam Fox. After only a week in the house the bosses at Channel 5 shocked Biggins and viewers alike and removed him from the house for using what they deemed to be offensive language. Social media went into a frenzy with the majority of viewers seemingly in agreement that Big Brother producers had made an example of Biggins and had been overzealous in their decision making. The real decision for his exit seemed to have been well hidden with the official reason on the actual series being given as Biggins having inappropriate conversations relating to bi-sexual people and the spread of AIDS whilst the wider media reported that Biggins had made a joke about a Nazi death camp to a fellow housemate who happened to be Jewish (X Factor reject Katie Waisell) but no footage was ever shown to support this and in addition producers had failed to show or mention that Biggins had received 3 warnings prior to his premature eviction which we can only put down to clever editing and cherry picking what they feel we should see and not a true reflection of Biggins time in the house. It would appear that Biggins had been removed for stating his opinion and beliefs and for that he was given the boot whilst viewers witnessed much worse behaviour from other housemates including using threatening language, making physical threats to others and causing damage to the Big Brother house, this was all allowed to happen with minor repercussions. We feel Biggins was unfairly treated and portrayed in a very poor light on this occasion, this could have been Biggins finest hour but he was deprived of it for the sake of sensationalism. Stars including Ricky Gervais came out on social media in support of Biggins unfair exit. Following the end of the 2016 series Ofcom announced they would be investigating comments made by Biggins that were screened in the series. Biggins also went on to express concern's that the series had been rigged from the start with bosses already knowing who they planned to win.
Later in 2016 Biggins became the off screen announcer on a new Channel 5 panel game show called 'It's not me, it's you' which was hosted by Eammon Holmes.He also made a cameo appearance in Absolutely Fabulous The Movie an made an appearance in 'Walliams and Friends'. Also In 2016 Biggins delievered a massive blow to the world of Pantomime as he announced his 2017/18 would be his very last. We had fingers crossed that he could be tempted out of retirement but if not then we hoped he enjoys his free time over the Christmas periods and look back with great fondness over the lifetime of panto roles he has treated us with.
In 2017 Biggins was back on our screens in the TV Series 'Gone to Pot: American Road Trip' where he was one of 5 celebs who travelled around the USA exploring the benefits of using marijuana for social and medical purposes. The series was screened in November 2017 on ITV. To round off 2017 Biggins appeared on the Channel 5 documentary ' Celebrity 5 go in Search of Santa Claus', a travelogue showing the celebs touring around Lapland. He was joined by Rustie Lee, Sue Holderness, Jo Pasquale and Rev Richard Coles.
2018 would see Biggins make appearances on shows including Celebrity Crystal Maze, Through the Keyhole, The Wright Stuff, Tipping Point Lucky Stars, Loose Women and The Immitation Game.
We salute you Mr Biggins..the first inductee into our Hall of Fame
1965 - Dick Whittington as a rat at the Salisbury Playhouse in Wiltshire
1977 - Mother Goose as Mother Goose at the Darlington Civic
1978 - Dick Whittington as Sarah the Cook at the Darlington Civic
1979 - Jack and the Beanstalk as Dame Trot at the Darlington Civic
1983 - Cinderella - Theatre Royal Brighton
1985 - Aladdin - As Widow Twankey in Brighton with Dora Bryan
1986 - Mother Goose as Mother Goose at the Grand Theatre Swansea
1987 - Dick Whittington as Sarah the Cook at the Alhambra Theatre Bradford
1988 - Mother Goose as Mother Goose at the Theatre Royal Brighton
1989 - Babes in the Wood as Nurse Tickle at the Birmingham Hippodrome
1990 - Babes in the Wood as Nurse Tickle at the Mayflower Theatre Southampton
1991 - Dick Whittington at the Hexagon Theatre in Reading
1992 - Cinderella - Epsom Playhouse
1993 - Dick Whittington at the Kings Theatre Glasgow
1995 - As Widow Twankey in Aladdin - Churchill Theatre Bromley
1996 - As Sarah The Cook in Dick Whittington at the Gatehouse Theatre Stafford
1997 - As Dame Trott in Jack and the Beanstalk at the Devonshire Park Eastbourne
1998 - Mother Goose as Mother Goose at the Theatre Royal Brighton
1999 - Mother Goose as Mother Goose at the Cambridge Arts Centre
2000 - Jack and the Beanstalk as Sarah the Cook at the Cambridge Arts Centre
2001 - Dick Whittington as Dame Trot at the Cambridge Arts Centre
2002 - Cinderella as Buttons at the Cambridge Arts Centre
2003 - Aladdin as Widow Twankey at the Cambridge Arts Centre
2004 - Dick Whittington as Sarah the Cook at the Theatre Royal Plymouth
2005 - Aladdin as Widow Twankey at the Richmond Theatre London alongside Simon Callow
2006 - Aladdin as Widow Twankey at the Theatre Royal Nottingham alongside Claire Sweeney
2008 - Cinderella as Buttons at the Mayflower Theatre Southampton alongside Matthew Kelly
2009 - Aladdin As Widow Twankey at the Theatre Royal Plymouth alongside Ben Langley
2010 - Aladdin as Widow Twankey at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre alongside Paul Zerdin
2011 - Robinson Crusoe as Mrs Crusoe at the New Theatre Cardiff alongside Paul Zerdin
2012 - Dick Whittington as Sarah the Cook at the Theatre Royal Plymouth with Basil Brush
2013- Jack and the Beanstalk as Dame Trott as the New Theatre Hull alongside Bob Carolgees
2014 - Peter Pan as Mrs Smee at the Cliffs Pavilion Southend alongside David Hasslehoff
2015 - Aladdin as Widow Twankey at the Theatre Royal Nottingham alongside Simon Webbe
2016 - No pantomime
2017 - As Widow Twankey in Aladdin at the Richmond Theatre London
2018 - As Widow Twankey in Aladdin at the Bradford Alhambra
2019 - As Widow Twankey in Aladdin at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley
Click on the below link for an interview from 2016 in which Christoper first discusses retiring from the world of pantomime and also talks about the loss of close show business friends and changes within the industry
Did you know...
Christopher Biggins appears in the original 1975 movie version of the Rocky Horror Picture Show
Biggins was raised in Salisbury in Wiltshire
Biggins personal favourite panto is Mother Goose
In 1999 Biggins was surprised with the big red book on This is Your Life
During a year off from appearing in panto in 2007 he won ITV's I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here!
His TV credits include Bad Girls, Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads, Celebrity Masterchef, Come Dine With Me, Some Mothers Do Ave Em, Surprise Surprise, Psychoville, Big Brother's Bit on the Side, Revelations, Cluedo, Rentaghost, On Safari and Porridge
His show-business friends include Dame Joan Collins and he was very close to the late Cilla Black, Linda Bellingham and Jackie Collins
Biggins is no stranger to stage musicals having appeared as The Baker in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Herod in Jesus Christ Superstar and has appeared in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Summer Holiday and The Rocky Horror Show.
In 1974 Biggins was receiving £1,000 per week for his panto performance
'Naughty, Naughty!' became Biggins panto catchphrase
Biggins makes a cameo appearance in the 2016 Absolutely Fabulous movie. He previously made a cameo in the TV series version in 1996,
Upon being announced as our first person to enter the Hall of Fame Biggins emailed us to say that he was 'Thrilled and honoured'