West End star Elaine Paige calls actors 'essential' and hopes pantomimes can go ahead as an 'escape'

ELAINE Paige hopes that this year's Pantoland at the Palladium, London, will help bring some humour into people's lives after a difficult year. 

The first lady of theatre, who has launched pet adoption drive West End Woofs, added that the performing arts are essential for making sure people's mental health is looked after.

In an exclusive chat with The Sun Online, she said: "I think to be able to give the public something to come along to and to be able to escape the reality of life at the moment will be great for mental health. It will give everybody a bit of escapism and a good laugh."

She will be joining Julian Clary, Paul O'Grady and others in the festive extravaganza, but admits backstage will be much more somber than normal. 

Elaine, 72, continued: "I know that I'll be in a dressing room on my own. I know I'm going to be tested I think once a week. I'm going to make sure  I'm going to stay away from everybody as much as possible. 

"It's not going to be quite as carefree backstage scenario as it has been in the past, because of the virus. But at the end of the day, my thoughts were, that I want to do something to help the theatre to get back up on its feet, and that's really the reason that I'm doing it.

"That's my contribution if you'd like, getting us back to being allowed to work and for audiences to come and see people in the theatre.

"I'm just going to be very, very careful and do what I know works, which is wear a mask when I'm around anybody when I'm off stage, and I shall wash my hands all the time and keep my distance."

Elaine has been a staple of the West End for over two decades and thinks the government's suggestion for actors and dancers to retrain is outrageous.

She said: "I don't think that's quite right really. I mean you don't tell people in other professions to go and retrain, just because they can't work right now.  It is an essential industry – it's essential for people's well being and their mental health. 

"And that's why I'm hoping that the pantomime will alleviate some of the stress for people, please God it goes ahead. 

"It will sort of be a chink of light and be something positive for people and that gives some people a nice laugh a bit, you know, uplifting and positive and I think goodness knows, certainly by Christmas by December 12 when it's meant to start. We'll be in serious need of a good laugh."

When asked about her new charity with Bernadette Peters, her voice starts to sparkle with enthusiasm. 

She said: "During this time I think it, now more than ever, I think people that do have pets realise the benefits of having a dog or a cat. It's comforting, it's good for us as humans and good for the animals too, so now might be the right time to go and think about bringing a pet into your home."

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