'I can't imagine a world where I'd not be doing panto' – Jordan Young on keeping the tradition alive in Snow White

As he prepares to break the fourth wall every night for a month as Muddles in Snow White at Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre, Jordan Young tells Mark Fisher why nothing beats playing the fool

Edinburgh panto lovers have needed patience this year. While the King's is being refurbished, the annual mirth-fest led by Allan Stewart, Grant Stott and Jordan Young is taking up residence in the Festival Theatre. The switch of venue has meant a change of date and it is only on 17 December that Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs kicks off its five-week run.

Young can't wait, but the delay has given him two rare opportunities. The first is to see his two daughters in their school nativities, something he has never been able to do. "Daddy, do you ever worry about forgetting your lines?" said the youngest the other night.

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The second is to eye up the competition. Earlier this month, he was delighted to have a family night out to see his old pals Elaine C Smith and Johnny Mac in Beauty And The Beast at the King's in Glasgow. "My five year old nearly burst with excitement for the whole two hours," he says. "She was involved in every aspect of it. She was so focused. When I'm on stage, I will remind myself there are 2,000 of my daughter out there."

Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs at the Festival Theatre, with Clare Gray, Jordan Young, Francesca Ross, Allan Stewart and Grant Stott PIC: Greg Macvean / Capital TheatresSnow White And The Seven Dwarfs at the Festival Theatre, with Clare Gray, Jordan Young, Francesca Ross, Allan Stewart and Grant Stott PIC: Greg Macvean / Capital Theatres
Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs at the Festival Theatre, with Clare Gray, Jordan Young, Francesca Ross, Allan Stewart and Grant Stott PIC: Greg Macvean / Capital Theatres

If a trip to the panto sounds like a busman's holiday for an actor with nearly 60 performances ahead of him, Young is having none of it. This will be his 21st season doing panto, having done stints in Glasgow, Aberdeen and twice before in Edinburgh, and he wouldn't have it any other way. Much as he enjoys playing dodgy businessman Alex Murdoch in River City and boastful cop PC Jack McLaren in Scot Squad, he is thrilled to give us his Muddles.

"I can't imagine a world where I'd not be doing panto," he says. "I've been doing it for exactly half my life. It's part of my psyche and part of my family set up. My wife [Karen Martin] choreographs pantos and Christmas is a really busy time for both of us, so we start talking about childcare in the summer with both grans. It's just what I do. I care about it."

I quote him an online remark by someone believing "panto is the lowest form of live entertainment" and he all but gasps in horror. "Wow!" he says. "That genuinely makes me angry. I'm incredibly proud to be involved in panto. I'm fiercely passionate about it. There's great skill, craft and tradition involved in what we do. It makes me really angry that someone could think that, but I would counteract it by saying, 'Please come along and see a production and if that's still your belief, then fair enough.'"

Young has played his share of darker characters – he was a squaddie in the original run of National Theatre of Scotland's Black Watch – but when it comes to pantomime, he falls naturally into the role of the loveable fool, the comic fall guy who gets the audience onside even if he never gets the girl. "Sadly the offer of romantic lead never came in!" he laughs.

In this, he has learnt from the best in the business, paying close attention to the late Gerard Kelly in his early days at the King's, Glasgow, and to the late Andy Gray whose place he now takes in Edinburgh.

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"As a young guy, being on stage with Kelly was pretty special to witness," he says. "Andy and Kelly were skilled in making it look effortless, having the audience eating out of the palm of their hands, but they worked very hard to make that happen. The audience would think they were just flouncing about, but it is a talent. Andy, in particular, could adlib better than anyone. Sometimes you'd be on stage thinking, 'I can't believe that just came out of your mouth.' If he had an adlib and it wasn't great, he had the confidence to move on. Whereas if I did an adlib that didn't work, my heart would be in my throat."

He adds: "Those guys learnt from the Rikki Fultons, the Stanley Baxters, the Jack Milroys. I've been the luckiest in that I've worked with Kelly, Andy, Elaine C Smith, Alan McHugh, now Allan and Grant – these guys are Scottish panto in my mind and I'm learning again from Allan and Grant."

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The challenge of getting the audience to like him is one he relishes, not least because he needs to earn their affection every time. As the baddie, Grant Stott can guarantee boos, but Young cannot be so certain of getting their love.

"I'm the conduit, the one who will break that wall and say 'Hiya, pals,'" he says. "My role is to be liked and there are shows where for no apparent reason, it's just not clicking for you. Then you try to win them and you overcompensate. It's the worst thing you can do. As soon as you start pushing comedy harder you become even less funny and they like you even less. Sometimes you just have to accept it's not your night. Every actor says that, but a lot of it is paranoia."

He continues: "I adore my job. When it works and you're getting nearly 2,000 people laughing or on a journey with you, that gets you through it. Nobody cares about you being tired – this is their magic time and they see it once. When you remember that before walking on stage, it's as fresh for you as it is for them."

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is a the Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, from 17 December until 22 January.