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She’s Behind You! Panto legend Johnny McKnight is dame for a laugh as he celebrates the magic of Scottish theatre  

Stage star and panto legend Johnny McKnight was dame for a laugh today as he celebrated the magic of Scottish theatre … dressed in flamboyant fashion as one of his favourite pantomime characters.

The performer, director and educator delivered The Cameron Lecture at a packed University of Glasgow’s Bute Hall, which turns the spotlight on Scotland’s great theatre traditions and the life and work of one of its champions.

The Cameron Lecture – delivered through a partnership between the University of Glasgow and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland – was established in 2019 by John Tiffany, the multi-award-winning theatre director and University of Glasgow alumnus, to honour his life-changing tutor, Dr Alasdair Cameron.

Johnny, a Royal Conservatoire of Scotland alumnus, delivered the 2024 lecture, The Panto Dame (She’s Behind You), dressed in full panto dame regalia and channelling one of his favourite characters, Dorothy Blawna-Gale.

Johnny McKnight, panto legend and RCS alumnus, is wearing a panto dame costume and full make-up and wig, in the Bute Hall at the University of Glasgow. He is standing in front of a trio of stained glass windows.

© Martin Shields


Johnny said: “I am in love with the magic of theatre and as you would expect me to say, I adore being in pantomime.

“It is a great honour to help remember the contribution of Scottish theatre personality Alasdair Cameron and to also celebrate Scotland’s much-loved pantomime genre. I feel very honoured to give the Cameron Lecture 2024 and hope, for one day only, to bring a bit of the magic and character of the panto to the Bute Hall and the University of Glasgow.”

The event was also a celebration of the art of theatre, with pantomime costumes on display from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. The collection featured a pantomime dame dress worn by legendary Scottish variety entertainer Jimmy Logan OBE, in his guise as Lizzie Trotter in the 1987 production of Jack and the Beanstalk.

The dress forms part of Jimmy Logan’s extensive archive, bequeathed to the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s Archives and Collections, by Jimmy’s estate in 2001.

Five costume students – Isobel Crone, Murron Goodall, Olivia Hartshorne, Charlotte McKeown and Inez Lucia Quinn Callan – who are studying on the BA Production Arts and Design degree programme at RCS also showcased a flamboyant collection of panto costumes.

Johnny McKnight, panto legend and RCS alumnus, is wearing a panto dame costume and full make-up and wig, in the Bute Hall at the University of Glasgow. He is surrounded by four RCS costume students who are pretending to make alterations to his costume.

© Martin Shields


Also on display from the Ambassador Theatre Group was a silver dress worn by one of Scotland’s finest panto dames, Stanley Baxter, as Widow Twankey in the 1986 production of Aladdin at The King’s Theatre Glasgow. It was joined by a headdress and wig designed by Terry Parsons and worn by Stanley in the 1983 production of Mother Goose.

Dr Alasdair Cameron was the University of Glasgow’s renowned and much-admired senior lecturer in the Department of Theatre Studies.

The lecture series, created along with Dr Cameron’s brother Robin and great friend Roberta Doyle, showcases the special qualities of Scotland’s dynamic and provocative theatre and performance creators, the unique heritage of the performing arts in Scotland, and the important impact they continue to have across the globe.

A core philosophy of The Cameron Lecture is access and inclusivity. Public tickets for the free event were snapped up within a matter of minutes. An allocation was also reserved to enable students and staff from both institutions to attend.

John Tiffany, whose credits include Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in London’s West End and worldwide, and the National Theatre of Scotland’s seminal Black Watch, said: “Alasdair was a hugely inspiring and inspirational teacher who was wonderfully kind. Following his premature death at just 41, it felt fitting to create a lecture series that celebrates and highlights his love of Scottish theatre and its practitioners.

“It is so strange to realise that this second lecture is being held in the 30th anniversary year of Alasdair’s untimely death. I am so thrilled that the exceptionally talented Johnny McKnight has agreed to give this year’s Cameron Lecture.

“Alasdair’s legacy is extraordinary not just for us, his students and colleagues, but as a superb champion of Scottish theatre. I am delighted that Alasdair’s remarkable legacy is now being shared with a wider audience through these lectures and held at the University of Glasgow which he loved dearly.”

Another former student of Dr Cameron, Professor Deirdre Heddon, the James Arnott Chair in Drama and Theatre Studies at the University’s College of Arts & Humanities, introduced Johnny McKnight’s Cameron Lecture 2024 to a packed audience at the University’s Bute Hall.

The first Cameron Lecture, in December 2019, was delivered by Royal Conservatoire of Scotland alumnus Alan Cumming, the multi-award-winning Hollywood, Broadway and TV star and author and activist. John and Alan collaborated on productions of The Bacchae and Macbeth for the National Theatre of Scotland.

In the inaugural lecture, Alan charted his journey from growing up in Perthshire to studying at RCS, and a career that has taken him from stage to screen, from smash Broadway musicals to blockbusting movies and water-cooler TV shows.