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Changes in Panto

December 17, 2014

As I mentioned last week, I went to my first panto in 33 years. I enjoyed myself so much that yes, I’ll be booking again for next year, without hesitation.

While there, I was also amused by how things have changed.

The stories remain true, and the old favourite routines are still there – “it’s behind you” still happens, the special “hello” one character demands, the “clapping off” song, all present and correct.

The show still takes place in a cardboard cut-out set, with the villagers opening the show, numbers boosted by the local junior dance school. And you get the ponies drawing the carriage.

And you get the stars. Well known names, doing something many of them look forward to doing every year.

It interested me, though, how this extravaganza is paid for.

Video seems to be both the draw and the money-maker. There’s no communal “drop down” song-sheet for a sing-a-long any more. It’s all screens when a show wants to interact, now. Before both acts, it was also used for another purpose – a Littlewoods avert was played. Now, I’m in two minds about this. It seemed wrong to show promotional material to such a captive audience. On the other hand, a life-sized Myleene Klass to enjoy… jury out…

It was the “before the show” stuff that was the even harder sell, though. A choice of 3 toys out of 6 for £15 suggests parents coughing up more than the price of a ticket to get the set. An extra 50p (on the standard £4 programme price the theatre chain usually set) included 2 glow-sticks, though, so there’s a spark of generosity.

No sweets given away either – chucking stuff from the stage seems out of fashion for various reasons, but no healthy snacks in the foyer either. Not that I care either way, to be honest… but then I didn’t have kids with me, I guess.

The only other mild sadness was a 3D film sequence of skeletons, skulls, ghosts and goolies (I don’t want to be grabbed by the ghosts, or by the…. nicely set up by it) got more audience reaction than almost anything else in the show. Replacing the time honoured guys in sheets with video just seemed lazy, somehow – and film can’t react as a real person would to the audience. Shame.

Some things improved, though. The script managed to be clean of filthier innuendo and 70s sitcom stereotyping yet sound fresh and funny. The leading lady was an example to young women rather than just an ornament, and the whole thing looked and felt of a quality easily worth the price of a ticket.

If you can get seats and want a special few hours this Christmas, I’d say finding your nearest panto is an excellent idea. In a family or even making a lone escape, I’ve a feeling you’ll love every minute.



And on that note, I’m off for my Christmas break. Back posting 14th January. Until then, “happy Christmas” to Christian readers, “happy holidays” to all… and all the best for 2015.

  1. December 17, 2014 4:02 pm

    a life-sized Myleene Klass would have been enough to make me wanna leave the building immediately 😉
    I’m insisting on seeing a panto each year since my husband introduced me to them about 7 years ago. Some were better than others, what I find most annoying are the 3D sequences you have described and those parents in the audience around me constantly checking their phones, talking, and having no clue how to behave in theatre.
    Will see the panto in Reading this year and hope it will be a good one,
    happy Christmas to you

    • Steve Rich permalink
      December 17, 2014 4:47 pm

      Ah, well, yes, I can appreciate the “other side of the fence” on that one. It did keep certain population of the audience happier than usual, though ;).

      Wonderful that you are such a fan, and know how much they vary. What got me about the 3D thing as well was the problem of getting the glasses to the audience. Not everybody remembered, and big groups needed wads of them.

      The Wimbledon had a light hum of noise, I must say, but I was clever and booked down the front – so it was all “behind me” as it were.

      Enjoy Reading’s panto and I wish you both a happy Christmas too 🙂

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