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The Panto Parties are over!

February 13, 2012

The Party’s Over!

 At this time of writing pantomimes all over the UKhave come to an end. Mine, at Llandudno finished the earliest- and Bradfordfinished  the latest- February 5th. Birmingham Hippodrome andNewcastle, along withWolverhampton were long runners, and now the party is ended, and plans are underway for next season!

One thing about an early finish for me was a rare chance to see some pantos around the country. I started by heading for Bradford and theAlhambra.

Andrew Ryan in the Nottingham 2009 "Jack" with Paul Zerdin

Andrew Ryan was giving his Nurse Nelly in “Robin Hood” with Billy Pearce in the title role, and my mate Hilary O’Neil playing the glamorous and wise-cracking Enchantress who saves the day when Billy/Robin is tricked by the Wicked Sheriff played by Jay Worthy. Jay of course was the equally wicked Fleshcreep with me last year atDartford.

Also atBradford was the lovely Sarah Ford. Sarah was assisting on wardrobe for the Bradford pantomime this year, having been with me atDartford the year before, and at  Ilford the year before that, and previously inWimbledon with Andrew (Ryan) again the year before that! We are trying to keep Sarah captive between us. During the summer months I was lucky to have Sarah with me to prepare and fit the Kenneth More Theatre pantomimes, and will keep my fingers crossed I can do the same this Summer! Not only is she a superb costumier but she makes a mean “Sock Monkey”. A monkey. Out of a sock. I think there’s a market out there for Sarah’s Sock Monkeys!

The panto had a few very good special effects on display- the magic waterfall that can spell words and a magnificent Dragon that flew out into the audience. Hilary as always gave a good “Impression” or two, and Andrew made appearances not just as Nurse Nelly but at one point as Anne Robinson and Susan Boyle. They  entertained the citizens of Yorkshire and beyond well into the first week of February!

After Bradford I decided to visit Birmingham Hippodrome on my way home from Llandudno- and what a joy it was to meet up with Brian Conley, Kathryn Rooney, the fabulous “Sisters” David Robbins and Martin Ramsdin, along with my mate Ian Sandy. The Hippodrome panto has always been held in the highest esteem by me- I’ve loved playing it twice in panto, and in “A Christmas Carol” and “Wind In The Willows” before then. The evening watching this year’s “Cinderella” was made extra special by being joined by Peter Tod. Peter ran the Hippo during both my “Cinderella” seasons, and employed Peter, Andrew Ryan and myself to take a show around the schools for a month, based on the Hippodrome and the history of Theatre. We also took our Panto Roadshow aroundBirminghamschools for five years.


Enjoyed myself thoroughly, and found myself enjoying some fond memories of doing the show- in a different version, with Brian so many times. This one had a truly wonderful horse that bonded with Brian in the “Stable” scene, and a very exciting flying motorbike that took Brian across the auditorium and almost to the front circle!

After BirminghamI found time to unpack at home, and then head for Windsor Theatre Royal to see my mate Britt Ekland in “Sleeping Beauty”. This is a departure for Britt, as she is usually the Good Fairy, and she revelled in being a Baddie this season, aided by her “Spy” Rasputin- who looked surprisingly like her own Chiahuwa “Tequila”, despite the wings attached! Had a good catch up after the show which also starred veteran Panto performer (and one of the finest “Peter Pan’s” that ever there was) Anita Harris and Tony Christie.


I Had an invite from my friend Laura Taylor to visit FFE’s panto at Wimbledon, and sat with Laura to thoroughly enjoy “Dick Whittington” starring the legendary Dame Edna Everage. I actually cried with laughter- and marvelled at the comic timing from the genius that is Barry Humphreys. From flying through the auditorium in a giant Wombat, to throwing Gladdies at the circle as The Dame exited, it was a fabulous show- aided and abetted by a great cast headed by Eric Potts who wrote and directed as well as playing Sarah The Cook. There was also an excellent Undersea 3D sequence created by my friend John Port. John created some stunning projection sequences for the Kenneth More Panto a few years back, and for UK Productions pantomimes and tour of “Beauty And The Beast”.

After the show had a quick drink with Paul Hendy and Emily Wood- they run “Evolution” pantomimes, and Emily’s brother George Wood who appears as Principal Boy in pantomimes across theUKfor First Family Pantomimes. They were heading in to see the next show- this one would include an after show “Q&A” session with the cast and, of course, the great Dame in Barry Humphrey’s persona. What a great evening that must have been!

Had a chance to see the Ilford “Jack And The Beanstalk” after Wimbledon. Having costumed it during the Summer, and wrapped and packed it in September, it was almost a surprise to see the costumes again! Great to meet up with mates Loraine Porter- she has performed in pantomimes here for a good many years, and  Christopher Marlowe. Chris has played the Kenneth More in panto eleven times- as Prince, as Comic and latterly as Dame. Directed by the new Theatre Manager Steven Day the panto was another long runner- finishing on January 22nd.

Since then I’ve “put to bed”  the Ilford “Jack And The Beanstalk” costumes, unpacked my own costumes that arrived back from Llandudno, and  sorted an “Aladdin” that the Kenneth More hired out this season- and as I left the building a few days ago Steven suggested we talk about the costumes for Cinderella 2012-12 in a few weeks. Almost time to Get This Party Started again!

However, just in case I need one last panto fix of the season, there is still ONE last panto running- “Oh No There Isn’t!” I hear- well actually, Yes there is! ” The Brick Lane Music Hall Cinderella” in East London’s Silvertown, just a short distance from me, a beautiful building nestling on the very edge of the Dockland’s City Airport- an adult pantomime produced and starring Brick Lane’s Vincent Hayes, directed and starring Ian Adams, with the fabulous Julie Paton as “boy”, with Nicki McNamee, the amazing Julia Sutton as Fairy Godmother, Radio Kent’s Paul James and Andrew Robley as Baron.

Brick Lane’s glitzy panto- the panto that starts the evening off with a meal, and then the panto – or a matinee tea and a panto- runs until March 3rd!

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