Hackney Empire’s loyal dame not tempted by golden goose

Clive Rowe says he refused offer of extra cash to leave Hackney

HACKNEY Empire’s pantomime dame extraordinaire has revealed he has been offered more money to ditch Hackney for other theatres – but he has turned them down.

In an interview with BBC London Radio this afternoon Mr Rowe, the star of this year’s Empire panto in Mare Street, Jack and the Beanstalk, told presenter Robert Elms he felt like part of the family in Hackney.

“I’ve been asked by regional theatres and they’ve offered me more money but at the minute I’m more than happy to go back to Hackney,” he said.

“It’s a family thing and I’d hate to leave them behind.

“I love being there.”

Year after year, Hackney Empire’s pantomime gets rave reviews – frequently being named the best pantomime in London.

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And regular dame, Mr Rowe, is the only actor to have ever been nominated for an Olivier Award for this peculiarly British festive gender-bending role.

Theatre critic Henry Hitchins wrote in The Evening Standard that Rowe “surely has to be the best dame in the business”.

Financial Times’ reviewer Ian Shuttleworth called Mr Rowe “simple irrepressible”.

“Even if some of his giggling moments may be scripted (as in many pantos), he always seems entirely spontaneous and to be having as much fun prattling about in daft frocks as we are watching him do so,” he said.

The Gazette’s own Jasmine Coleman said this year Mr Rowe was “fabulous” as Jack’s mother Daisy and had “everyone waiting on a single punch line and gasping at one roof-raising note”.

The success of this year’s panto is especially sweet for the Empire’s staff after a year when its very future hung in the balance.

Despite a cash crisis, the theatre has bounced back and is looking forward to a brighter 2011.

Jack and the Beanstalk runs until January 9 with tickets available for between �9.50 and �24.50.

Tickets are available from the box office on 20 8985 2424 or by visiting www.hackneyempire.co.uk.