HE’S behind you . . . unless he’s missed his cue, fallen down a trapdoor or got stuck in the pub during the interval.

Pantomimes around the country have been selling out in record time, thanks to a resurgence in the popularity of classic gags and over-the-top dames.

But what happens when things on stage don’t go quite according to plan?

Madame Galina, the diva ballerina, who is starring in the hit circus panto Mother Goose at Blackburn King George’s Hall, recalled: “I was in Afghanistan waiting to go on stage in front of 500 rough and tough Royal Marine Commandos and it was terrifying.

“I could hear explosions a few miles away and I said to their Colonel: ‘If it kicks off when I get out there you’ve got to step in and stop it.

“He told me off for not putting my body armour and helmet on properly when suddenly I heard a blast of Tchaikovsky, which was my cue.

“I was screaming, ‘Blimey . . . I’m on, I’m on.’ “Before the Colonel could help me unclip the body armour I tripped, crashed through the curtain and ended up in the colonel’s lap on a sofa sat in front of the cheering squaddies.

“There was a giant roar, howls of laughter and they all went bonkers.

“I knew it would be OK after that and the soldiers respected me for going out there.”

Madame Galina, who also performed for British troops in Iraq, added: “It was the first time they had seen a 15 stone man from Wales dressed in a tutu jumping around on stage in Helmand Province.”

So what about the man behind the tutu? Iestyn Edwards experienced the lure of the crowds at a very young age, touring with his country and western singer father Terry Edwards.

“I think that being regularly on variety bills with a troupe of all-singing, all-dancing puppets featuring an emu that sang Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better, well you can probably deal with anything after that,” he said.

“I’ve always loved pantomime and the sheer joy it brings to children.

“For many of them, pantomime will be their first visit to a theatre and that has to be magical for them.”

He created the character of Galina, Edward’s alter-ego, at a party and was spotted by entrepreneur Emily Latham, who arranged an audition for trendy London night club Kabaret.

“They booked me and within a week I was on stage in front of Madonna, Jude Law and Kate Moss.”

Edwards, who is also a classically-trained singer, admits he is intensely proud to see Madame Galina serving Queen and country.

“It all started after I sang for the Queen on the HMS Victory,” he added.

“The next thing I was getting calls asking how I’d feel about wearing a flak jacket and a helmet and going behind the wire to sing to the soldiers.

“You are there as a morale-booster and the squaddies want to forget for a couple of hours. If Madame Galina can make them laugh then that’s fantastic.”

  • Mother Goose, Blackburn King George’s Hall until December 31. 0844 8471664.