Have you been to the panto yet? No, me neither but I’m probably going to give it a bash. After all, it has to be better than watching a ‘celebrity’ I’ve never heard of having to endure a pit of lizards before being force-fed raw bat offal – although in my view that should be compulsory for most ‘celebrities’. And a trip to the theatre has to be more entertaining than watching the interminable buffoonery of Boris and Jacob dressed as the wrong end of a pantomime horse.
I know they are often dismissed as the lowest form of art (that’s pantos not Boris…although, I don’t know) but I suspect they have come on by leaps and bounds since I last ventured into the grand circle clutching a raspberry Mivvi and a packet of Treets.
My first foray, armed with two small but potentially explosive children, involved a much revered northern comedian who was dressed in an army uniform and chain-smoked Woodbines while telling long rambling stories about the war, Neville Chamberlain and the challenges of having to mend the string on his wife’s carrier bag. And no, this was not in the 1950s!
As you can imagine, they found the whole thing hysterically funny. Actually, they endured it in a stony-faced sulk for less than an hour until one demanded a ‘wee’ and we slunk out never to return to our seats.
We gave it another go a couple of years later and this wasn’t much better. The star of the show was doing what seemed like an endless ‘Look Behind you’, ‘Oh yes, he is’, ‘Oh no he isn’t’ routine when one large child near the front, red-faced
as he boiled with exasperation, stood up and bellowed: ‘Oh yes he ******* well is!’ Sadly, this outburst coincided with a rare moment of near silence in the auditorium and for the next few weeks I was regularly asked what that boy meant. ‘Just one of those silly panto words, darling.’ ‘Yes, but what does it daddy?’ ‘Would you like a pony?’
The final straw came with Les Dawson playing the dame as imagined by Cissie Braithwaite. He was brilliant, but there was a comedy double act who only just escaped with their lives. It had reached that lull in proceedings when the cast get a breather while the duo invite kids onto the stage. One small girl arrived to the comment: ‘My, those are thick glasses.’ ‘Yes,’ replied the cherub. ‘My little girl used to have glasses like that but she doesn’t have to wear them any more.’ ‘Doesn’t she?’ replied the girl, hopefully. ‘No,’ said the comedian. ‘Now she’s got a nice white stick.’
If ever there was a tumbleweed moment this was it and pretty soon the silence turned to hisses that became full-throated boos. The pair didn’t appear in the second half and I suspect, for their own safety, were on the first train out of town.
So after several decades I’ll be glad to see how pantomimes have moved with the times. I have noticed a growing trend towards gender swaps, sort of trans pantos. I saw some publicity material locally that said in one Peter Pan production Captain Hook was being played by a woman and a chap had been cast as Tinker Bell. What’s more, the story was to be told from Tinker Bell’s perspective.
And about time too, I say. For too long, Sister Bell’s genuine concerns about the stereotyping of fairies in Never Never Land has gone unchallenged.
I’m only sorry that they lacked the courage to find a rugby prop forward with heavy tattoos and a fulsome moustache to play Wendy. Only then would we be able to say we had truly broken free from the shackles imposed on us by the gender fascists.
Have a great month
(Oh, yes you ****** well will!)
What did he say, Daddy?
ROGER BORRELL, Editor, Lancashire Life