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The Highs and Li-Lo’s of Panto!

December 18, 2013

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Tuesday 17th December

Absolutely packed to the rafters both shows! The kids start chanting all the lyrics to the Front Of House Music as soon as they enter the auditorium, and the sound of 1,500 of them shouting out to “One Way Or Another” is deafening! Love it! When you see them on mass they range from about six years old to eleven. The tiny ones in the front row clutching teddies and just open eyed at what is happening, the older ones yelling at John to be soaked by his Super Skooshers in the Twelve Days Of Christmas!

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The 10.30am tomorrow is our last school show. They all break up on Friday. School holidays are so short nowadays. Maybe that is why panto runs are so short. We finish on December 29th having played Three and a half weeks. As a kid the Swansea Pantomimes went on until early March, and played the Half Term!

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Both shows went very well. There are slight adaptations to the show in terms of comedy, to accommodate the entirely juvenile audience. The running time differs by a minute or two. In the afternoon you see a sprinkling of pensioners, and you can hear the laughs on gags that didn’t get much in the morning shows.

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Outside it was another beautiful clear and crisp day. I had a day dream that I was asked to design the Venue Cymru from a personal viewpoint. I’d have every dressing room with big windows facing the fabulous mountain views you get from the rear of the theatre. A few windows do, but they are on landings. No windows in dressing rooms mean you lose track of the day when you enter in the light and leave in the dark. It must be one of the most scenic theatres built, with a view from the restaurant over the seafront and both Ormes. In my dreams I’ve rebuilt it with that view for the actors as well!

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Next door to Venue Cymru is a theatre that has a beautiful interior in the old style. The Grand Theatre. It is now sadly abandoned and unloved. For several years a nightclub, The Broadway Boulevard, the club is now closed and it stands silent. Fortunately the nightclub rebuild involved basically creating a box inside the auditorium, and the structure was mainly left intact. Photographs show the original lighting board and fitments are still there in this ghostly shell. I was there once when it was operating as a theatre, in the days when the site occupied by Venue Cymru was The Arcadia Theatre, where Robertson Cleaver played his mighty organ, according to the billboards! I think the manager back then was John Creese-Parsons, and later it was run by Jeff Dukenfield in the 1980’s.

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Built in 1901 it had 1,000 seats and two balconies with, I recall an impressive ceiling. It was home to Summer seasons and repertory seasons, touring shows and Music Halls, and played a very important role in morale during The Second World War. It was from here that the hugely popular Radio show “Happidrome” was broadcast, when the BBC split its broadcasting studios around the United Kingdom, and kept the venues secret. While Millions of listeners believed “We Three From Happidrome.. Working for The BBC” – the theme tune was broadcast from BBC in London, it was in fact from Llandudno in this jewel of a theatre.

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I would dearly love to get a tour, as I know most of the Theatre Crew here at Venue Cymru would, but I fear this may not be possible. For now a few photographs from the internet will have to do. I bid it a fond good morning every day as I pass it to enter the Stage Door.

Todays  project, in the short time I had between shows was to blow up my lilo! No, Queen Blodwyn is not about to rule the waves, but it might make a luxurious air bed for the inbetween shows naps. Either I was doing it wrong, or simply not puffing enough, I could not get it to inflate. (phnnar) but fortunately our Dave Young on the crew sorted it out, and I can look forward to Nanna Naps from now on!

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A roast dinner at the “Albert” with Mac on sound and Neal on drums (but obviously not while eating!) and a jolly time with Dave and Michael from the Can Y Bae and the company before an early night. Two shows tomorrow followed by a Tapas meal. I will be the one looking for something “not spicy please” on the menu and getting withering looks from waiters!

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