My old mate Jim McLaren invited me to the Christmas show for pensioners, even though I’m the same age as him and I’m not doddery, yet, although I can’t remember the last time I was at Panto and I hate Christmas. And I especially detest people who put their Christmas decorations up after Halloween and then wait until near Easter to put wee bunnies and eggs wrapped in red ribbons up on their walls. And you know what I think of people who buy Christmas presents in the January sales for next year. And when I come to think of it, I’ve never been to Panto before. Boo-hiss. I think Jim was trying to tell me something, I might even enjoy myself without being drunk. Boo-hiss. (I sneaked in a half bottle of Eldorado and drank in a oner in the toilet, but sshhhh, don’t tell anybody).
But the first thing I noticed was somebody sleeping soundly, with a jacket over his head, in the seats at the corner table, near the fire exit. Perhaps he knew something I didn’t. Right enough, his great-granny was there and when he woke up she gave him a dummy, but that was no excuse for him not greeting.
Well, the baby McLaren missed a great show. I hadn’t heard of Geez A Break Productions. I guess that’s us even, as they won’t have heard of me.
As a writer I’m interested in the use of language and storytelling. If you don’t know the story of Cinderella then your heid needs looking at. The Fairy Godmother speaks and sings in rhyme. Cinders, Buttons and the Ugly Sisters actors use Glasgow dialect. There are risqué jokes that aren’t much of a risk and singing and dancing. Over the years the wooden floor in the 543 has, no doubt, been barracked by stacks of people up dancing to The Sash and The Slosh, but I guess that’s the first time it’s been done with glittery magic shoes for the latter, and as a backdrop to being lost in the forest. And there was gies a Brecht in the best pantomime way as the performers addressed the audience directly. Oh, yes they did…Oh, no they didn’t. Oh, yes they did…
Costumes were terrific and the stage set perfect in its simplicity. My only gripe would be the use of microphones. I guess with quick costume changes and microphones attached to the collars might not be do-able on a small budget. But when The Fairy Godmother used her wand to magical effect so that Cinders could go to the ball was a show-stopping moment. With one shake of her hips Cinders had been converted from blonde, bright and beautiful with a great singing voice to blonde bright and beautiful with a great singing voice, but with a snazzy new blue dress on. A conjurer’s trick that was a delight to the eyes.
But sometimes the unscripted makes things better. Susan, who got a bit caught up in the performance and thought Lavvy, one of the ugly sisters, was a bit of a bully. She responded to requests from Buttons that anyone wanted to try on the glittery slipper that we know is a match for only one foot by wandering on to the stage. Magically, it fitted her. And as we know Cinderella always finishes with the lived happily ever after anthem and married Prince Charming. The last time I was at the 543 it was dark, miserable and less than charming, there was a punch up outside. But that’s a Grimm’s story for other times, not guilty, your honour.