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Panto is not just for Christmas!

September 22, 2013

You know that Christmas rush- the one that sends people scurrying to the shops and hurling turkeys into trolleys and crackers into carrier bags? Those panto folk who read this blog will agree we never get that “Christmas Rush”- by that time we are well into twice daily shows, eating a cardboard sandwich in a onesie between shows and wondering what the fuss is all about!

My Christmas rush happens now. This week in fact. Panto started back in late June with the sketches being drawn, and by July the materials being purchased. The panto costumes starting to be pulled from stock, and costume makers sent boxes of material, trimmings and the odd steel crinoline. Mary-Ann has been machining away on Widow Twankey, while Mr Bahal has created headdresses and beaded frocks that arrived three weeks ago.

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Kevin and Gerry at WigArt have been stewing and gluing their fantastic wigs, most of which arrive this week in their van,  guarded by their gorgeous dog “Jack”. A large labradoodle.


Back at the KMT I’ve been squeezing past the rails of Aladdin costumes that have come from our existing stock, and then added to by the new makes. The store already houses something like 5,000 costumes, so putting these on the floor on mobile rails (seven of them) was cramped before we added the rails of “Jack & The Beanstalk” and “Snow White” that the KM Theatre is hiring out. Fortunately a lot of these have now been collected early (to enable press calls and fittings) and at last I can get through without gymnastics! Seven dwarfs are still peering at me from their cupboard, all shiny and new from a complete refurb, and a few rabbits and the odd badger try to get a look in from their shelves. Panto time has hit me fair and square in the face this week!

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With the Pantomime Roadshow about to go out on tour, it is essential as much of the KMT’s “Aladdin” is ready now, as I will return from the tour in November with my own Dame costumes ready to ship out to Llandudno, and rehearsals starting.


The past month or so the cast members have been in and have been fitted in all their costumes. I’ve now only got the Genie of The Lamp to fit. As soon as fittings are over, and I’ve done up my notes, Diane gets to work on the alterations, the repairs – a pop fastener here, a cuff there, and the completed items are bagged, labelled and returned to the store.

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Third from left: The Cave Scene from the previous production.

Friday was fun. The Theatre is very busy at the moment, and the laundry area is being completely rewired, along with the rest of the building. Ladders, dust and cable everywhere. On Friday the fittings took place at the same time as the laundry was in use as a dressing room for our regular “Murder Mysteries with Cream Teas” afternoons- packed to the rafters. So we had Miss Marples, Electricians, Aladdins and Wishee Washees all in one place at the same time. Somehow it all went like clockwork, and no- the Butler didn’t do it!


Above: Finale from a previous production

I’ve fitted all the juveniles now. There are two groups of six from the local PalmerstoneDanceSchool. I have been doing the costumes for panto here for a very long time- so long, in fact that now I’m costuming the children of the children I costumed years back. Second generations of Juveniles!


Apparently over 142 children have appeared in the Kenneth More Pantomimes since we started. My Brother Vivyan, former manager here knows this, as he has managed to name them all in his website, along with every artiste that has appeared in panto here over the years! I’ve lost count as to how many times I’ve costumed “Aladdin” here, but every time it is a different experience. The cast might change, the script might change, the routines and songs change and the juveniles grow up and then return with their children to costume- but we’re still here!


So spare a thought- the pantomime is not just for Christmas- its for the Summer and the Autumn. I am not alone- all over the UK the vast machinery of the costume stores and scenery stores are in full motion. Press calls have been and gone. Posters printed, handbills on the counters and the Box Office tills are ringing.


Our Roadshow heads out on Monday for two schools a day , five days a week. We play Dagenham and Glasgow , Bradford and Leyton, Wolverhampton and Stratford East, and adding to our list this year Sunny Southampton, where fellow Roadshower Andrew Ryan will be giving his Mrs Crusoe this season. We’re joined once again on the tour by Nathan Daniel. He will finish our tour on a Friday night and head straight for Newcastle to start rehearsals. Andrew will finish and head straight for Mansfield, where he will direct a “Cinderella” before heading for Southampton, and I’ll be off as Queen Blodwyn in Llandudno.

After three weeks of twice daily touring Andrew & I are fitting in a quick “telly” between Southampton and Bradford- it involves a dash up the country and a very early morning start in full Dame make-up, but it should be a lot of fun and grace the screens at Christmas Time. More of that later when we have the details!

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So- if those 142 children want to take a look at the history of the Kenneth More Pantomimes- If Jonathan Kiley and David Ian would like to look back at their Panto appearances here- maybe along with Michael French and Freddie Lees and Roy Alvis and Desmond Barrit- its all there if you follow the link below. Enjoy!

Take a look at the cover of Vivyan’s Kenneth More Theatre Panto site, and see how many Dames you can name!

From → Miscellaneous

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