A lad in tights, that's what you get in a Christmas pantomime. And bad puns.
And, if the pantomime is Aladdin
, you get a girl in tights, playing Aladdin, and she's called the Principal Boy. And a girl in a frock, playing the Princess who marries Aladdin in the end, and she's called the Principal Girl.
Oh yes she is!
If you're in the audience, you will have to shout "Oh yes she is!" or "It's behind you" or "Hello Cuddles" or some such sophisticated slogan at regular intervals.
If you're not from Britain, you might not have a clue what I'm on about. But if you are, the chances are you know exactly what I mean.
The pantomime I saw today was at Middlesbrough Theatre
, even further Up North than Leeds, and our actress Alex Hall
was the Fairy of the Ring.
It was a terrific, traditional pantomime, with glitter and spangles and old jokes a-plenty.
In case you didn't know, Widow Twankey is a washerwoman, and she's the Dame, which means she's played by a man, and she and her incompetent son Wishee Washee have conversations like this:
"Where did you put the Daz?"
"It's on top of the telly."
"Why did you put it there?"
"Because I couldn't find the Ariel!"
The Dame has lines like this:
"My frock is by Jean-Paul Gaultier and my underwear's by Tupperware. It's not very comfortable but it keeps everything nice and fresh."
Our favourite line of Widow Twankey's was this - - yes, very silly, I know:
"I have never been so insulated in all my loft!"
The Dame had numerous changes of costume. The local dancing school provided many small girls dancing their little socks off. Aladdin was played by Jet from the original series of Gladiators
, who still has exactly the kind of thighs to provide interest for many adults in the audience.
Wishee Washee, the incompetent but loveable son, was Craig, who won the first series of Big Brother
, and he was very endearing and excellent in all respects except that he really, really
couldn't sing. And he had to lead the audience singalong of "I am the music man, I come from down your way, and I can play - - what can I play - - ".
Every time he opened his mouth he was in a different key, if indeed he was in any key at all. The Dame had referred earlier to him singing "in four different keys" and she was so right! But we didn't care, and we helped him through it, because we loved him. It was definitely a wise decision on his part to go for Big Brother
and not The X-Factor
One of the keys to this panto's success was its attention to detail. There were lots of delightful moments: in the middle of a chase, a very tall policeman climbs into a washing machine and a very small one comes out a short time later.
The cast, I'm told, like each other, and it shows - they were great and the teamwork was excellent. Our Alex Hall, a superb pink and sparkly Fairy of the Ring, was heavily involved in the best routine of the show - a parody of The Twelve Days of Christmas
with several of the cast, each with different objects - - seven cups of coffee - - two smelly socks - - oh, you had to be there. The smelly socks went into the audience and I thought some of the smaller children would have to be hospitalised because they laughed so much.
It has a strangely old-fashioned feel in spite of the contemporary references. There was a big sign on the wall outside Widow Twankey's laundry: "Bagee Washee".
A bag wash - - and correct me if I'm wrong, because I'm dredging up this memory from a book I loved as a child, set in the 1920s, The Family from One End Street
by Eve Garnett - was when the laundry washed everything in a bag for you and returned it to you damp. You've got to be fairly - er - mature in years to even have a chance of knowing that one.
Some of the old panto jokes won't mean much to today's children either, or certainly won't soon:
"He was just like his father, going to Church every Sunday. To nick the lead off the roof."
"My son's got a photographic memory. The trouble is, there's no film in the camera."
And, being a washerwoman, Widow Twankey produced an immaculately starched shirt and dickie-bow tie and sang this sweet little song:
"You need starch to stiffen up your dickie
You need starch to keep it that way
If you stiffen up your dickie in September
It will still be stiff in May."
I've never heard THAT one before but I bet it's been around for some considerable time. Probably started life in some Victorian music-hall.
Because the agency represents several actors who are currently working in pantomimes, I have more pantomimes to see! Oh yes I have! I hope I enjoy them as much as I enjoyed this one.