60 years of panto are behind Northams' Maggie Smale, 70
PLAYING a principal boy is second nature for one 70-year-old from Northam who is preparing to take on the role for at least the 15th time in her 60th pantomime.
Maggie Smale has been involved in pantomimes in North Devon since she was 14 and is not intending to stop now.
After hanging up her tights and boots six years ago as principal boy, the grandmother of seven has decided to take the plunge again as Jack, in The Bright Stars Theatre Group pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk.
She said when the rehearsals started for the show in September last year no one came forward for the role of principal boy.
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She added: "I was worried the pantomime wouldn't go ahead this year because there were a couple of roles which weren't being filled so I thought I'd better be principal boy again to help out.
"I was worried about my age and what people would say but they say I scrub up well and my voice isn't perfect but I project well.
"I have always just loved being in pantomimes.
"The last few years since I stopped being principal boy I have played the 'baddie' and that is really good, although having been in a pantomime for every year for nearly 60 years I have played most roles."
Maggie said she got into pantomimes when she was young as her parents were part of the Westward Ho! Follies.
She said: "It is something the whole family have been involved in and this year I am playing opposite my daughter who is the principal girl. It isn't awkward, we have done it before."
Maggie also performed in the Parkham pantomime before she set up the theatre group in Northam 17 years ago along with musical director Lionel Hodge and director Michael Sale.
She said one difference this year was that new costumes had been made for all the cast.
She said: "It is quite exciting and also nice for me having a new principal boy costume. I will be wearing fishnets, though, which is better than when I first started and we used to just have bare legs."
This year's pantomime will be particularly special for Maggie because in the last 12 years she had suffered two bouts of cancer and is only now feeling back to her normal self.
She added: "You can't let it beat you, you have to keep going."
The Northam pantomime raises money for a different charity each year.
Last year's show raised £700 for the Appledore Lifeboat and this year the pantomime is raising money for Headway in Barnstaple.
The pantomime will be performed at Northam Methodist Hall on January 18, 19, 25 and 26 at 7pm and with a Saturday matinee at 2.30pm.