"You've got to expect the unexpected with the dame.

"She could come on in a scene that she's not in, from an entrance that she's been directed not to - because she can do whatever she wants."

Robin Simpson, who plays Widow Twankey in the Lawrence Batley Theatre's upcoming production of Aladdin, was talking to me over a sandwich and coffee in the Queen Street theatre's cafe.

He was wearing jeans, a T-shirt and a full face of make up.

"That's the attraction of playing her," he explained.

The curtain doesn't go up until December 7 but Robin and the show's director, Joyce Branagh, were at the theatre filming a trailer for the Christmas pantomime written by Andrew Pollard.

Robin has had a varied career. He has just finished a summer stint at Shakespeare's Rose Theatre in York where he played a child-murdering witch in MacBeth.

"Not very damey," he admitted. Previously he appeared in productions of Wuthering Heights and Travels with my Aunt - both directed by Joyce - and last year played Dame Trott in Jack and the Beanstalk at the Lawrence Batley Theatre.

Robin Simpson, who plays Widow Twankey in the Lawrence Batley Theatre's upcoming production of Aladdin and the show's director, Joyce Branagh

"You get known for doing certain things with different directors. Some will cast me in certain shows because they know I can do serious and some will cast me in a comedy because they have seen me do it before.

"When the kids were younger I didn't do many pantos because I didn't want to work too much at Christmas and the schedules are generally quite busy.

"Now, I like mixing it up - but comedy is always nice because you get your instant feedback. They laugh if it's funny - if it's not, they don't."

Joyce first spotted Robin when he was playing the part of Stan Laurel in a theatre production and recognised a talent for comedy.

She explained: "Being able to know the timing of physical comedy and gags is something that you need your dame to be able to do.

"The writer, Andrew, has written pantomimes all over the county but he wrote this one specifically with Robin in mind and specifically for Huddersfield."

Robin Simpson as Dame Trott in Jack in the Beanstalk

The script for Aladdin is very much written on two levels. There are jokes for adults and children as well as a musical mix of golden oldies and songs in the charts now.

Joyce continued: "We're not naughty, I don't think, but there are some references that the adults would get and there is also lots of silliness that everyone gets swept up in. Sometimes a joke that you think is just for kids has the whole auditorium roaring."

Improvisation, particularly when interacting with the audience, is also a big part of the upcoming Aladdin show.

Robin said: "The audience has got to feel that they can chip in whenever.

"We want to encourage that and usually it's me having a bit of a chat with someone, making a fool out of someone, getting them to shout a few things out.

"I can mess around with the other actors as well because they shouldn't know what I'm going to do either."

Robin Simpson in costume as Widow Twankey outside the Lawrence Batley Theatre

The show runs from December 7 to January 6 at the Lawrence Batley Theatre in Queen Street, Huddersfield.

Tickets cost £9.50-£18.50. Book online via www.thelbt.org/shows/aladdin /