December 19th 1973

Xmas panto – load of ttsphs

Hmmm… what can I mean by “ttsphs” I wonder?

Panto – or pantomime – is a peculiarly English tradition. It is also a tradition that is peculiar.

Usually performed around the Christmas holidays – but rarely having any obvious references to Christmas – Panto is a form of theatre designed for a family audience. A Panto storyline is invariably based on old-fashioned children’s books such as Aladdin, Beauty & the Beast, Cinderella, Goldilocks & the Three Bears, or Peter Pan.

That's SIR Ian McKellen as Window Twanky

When I say “based on” I truly mean it. The fairy tales are padded out with convoluted side plots, satirical asides and, let’s just day, ‘extreme’ character development.

The Panto also carries with it a certain set of (unwritten, but recognised) performance conventions which include – but are no means limited to – the fact that any leading male character is usually played by a female actress dressed in tight-fitting clothing, there is a man in drag playing an older woman (the wicked witch etc), there will be a pantomime horse or cow somewhere and the story will ensure that lots of ludicrous slapstick will ensue.

Cilla Black is Cinderella. Oh no she's not!

Perhaps the thing that most seasoned panto go-ers remember is the audience participation. That theatrical “fourth wall” is broken constantly as the crowd is not only encouraged to boo any villain they spot, but also tell the people on stage where that villain might be. Shouts of “He’s behind you” are turned into minor farce when the victim around just as the villain hides behind another piece of dodgy plywood scenery. “No he’s not” – “oh yes he is” etc., ad infinitum

I hasten to add that I’ve written all of this exclusively for my non-British readers. My “homeys” will know – all too well and with a certain level of cringe-worthy familiarity – exactly what a Panto represents.

Back when I had my own business in England, I remember buying tickets to a Panto as a Christmas gift for one of my shop managers. I thought he would relish the opportunity to take his young daughter with him to the theatre. The day after the show he jokingly called me names that questioned my parentage. He said his daughter LOVED the night out with all the call and response moments, the water spraying of the front rows and all the sweets that were thrown from the stage. She couldn’t stop talking about it. My manager,  however, said it was one of the worst bits of entertainment he’d ever experienced. I think he too called it ttsphs?

Bring on Toyah Wilcox!

Did I mention that the major pantomimes in England all tend to feature B, C or D-list celebrities?


1 Comment

Filed under 1973 Diary Entries

One response to “December 19th 1973

  1. I take it you didn’t enjoy the panto back in the day ??

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