AFTER 10 years, Oldham Coliseum's popular panto dame has picked a Fine Time to hang up his stockings and sequins after announcing he's handing the role to slapstick sensation Richard J Fletcher.

Fine Time Fontayne, famed for bringing hilarity, humour and outrageous costumes to the theatre's much-loved and award winning festive extravaganzas, has officially passed on the part to his long-time co star.

Richard, who has regularly played 'son' to Fine Time's dame, will step into his extravagant wardrobe and now synonymous Doc Martins in this year's Jack and the Beanstalk.

Fine Time and Richard both joined the Coliseum pantomime family in 2008 for that year’s production of Aladdin, with Fine Time playing Widow Twankey and Richard playing Wishee Washee.

Returning each year in their respective roles as dame and comic, they are loved by Oldhams panto-goers of all ages and have become as much a part of the festive season as turkey sandwiches on Boxing Day!

Fine Time, who has only missed one production in 10 years after breaking his ankle in 2016, said: “I decided last year that Cinderella would be my last Christmas as dame, but to be able to hand over to someone that I admire and trust is making it easier for me to hang up my padding – top and bottom.

"I know that I’m leaving the coliseum in very safe hands. With a long tradition dating back to Kenneth Alan Taylor and subsequent dames, no one has ever dropped the ball and I think that Richard – being a former member of Manchester City’s youth squad – will kick the ball even higher.

"It’s like my son has become the daughter I never had.”

Richard J Fletcher is praised year on year for his boundless energy and skilful enticement of audience participation, both on and off stage.

At a recent cast visit to Dr Kershaw’s Hospice in Royton he had patients and staff in fits of laughter as they shouted out his catchphrase from this year’s five-star production of Cinderella.

This year, Richard plays a multi-dimensional Buttons - until Saturday (January 12) - with a moving rendition of Emeli Sande’s Clown as well as the usual jokes, slapstick and heel-clicking jumps.

“Being an Oldhamer, the Coliseum panto was a big part of my childhood, I couldn’t imagine spending Christmas anywhere else," said Richard.

"It’s an honour to be asked to play the dame – it’s as if Buttons is graduating!

"It’s a big role to fill but I’ve got a good few months to practise walking in heels and dancing in dresses and I’m excited to see everyone again next year.”

Currently performing as Pumpy Squeezepocket, one of the Ugly Sisters in Cinderella, Fine Time is also the co-writer of the seasonal show and has written over 20 pantomimes at the Coliseum and in various theatres across the country.

He will continue in his role as pantomime co-writer, working on the script for Jack and the Beanstalk with director of the pantomime and acting artistic director of the Coliseum, Chris Lawson.

Chris said: “I’m sorry to see Fine Time leave as dame but delighted that we’re still continuing our relationship with him.

"We have a brilliant cast and creative team for our pantomime and I’m excited that Richard is graduating to the dame role. I had my first taste of directing panto this year in Doncaster and I can’t wait to bring all that I’ve learned back here to Oldham for 2019.”

Alongside co-writing with Fine Time, Chris will be working on Jack and the Beanstalk with the Coliseum’s annual designer Celia Perkins and musical director Dave Bintley.

Celia was the Coliseum’s resident designer until 2002 and has designed over 30 productions for the Coliseum, ranging from traditional pantomime and musicals to straight plays and comedies.

Known to regular Coliseum pantomime audiences as ‘Uncle David’ – for his traditional judging of the songsheet audience singing contest – Dave has been a part of the Coliseum’s annual pantomime since 2007’s production of Jack and the Beanstalkarrive in Ooctober each year direct musical rehearsals and stays with the production throughout the run of 80-plus performances, leading the pantomime’s live band and playing keyboard.