Angus Lennie I‘ve done a great collection of different kinds of pantomimes. I did a summer pantomime when I was sixteen in which I played Buttons. 1 was at the Windmill in London for two and a halfyears where there were the first nudes that they ever had. They were posed, they couldn‘t move, that was the law then. The Windmill was non-stop revue for 30-odd years. We had a potted pantomime in it called Hot Cinders! With the greatest respect. there’s not an awful lot that‘s new.
You couldn‘t say what you can say in them now. You had to submit everything to the Lord Chamberlain. There was a marvelous pantomime at the old Queen‘s Theatre in Watson Street in Glasgow. it starred Sammy Murray and Frank and Doris Droy who were great Glasgow workers. They got away with wonderful things. There‘s one gag where they‘d be in the kitchen and in the script Doris would say. ‘What‘s that burning?‘ Sammy would say, ‘That‘s your Ayrshire bacon.‘ And ofcourse, Ayrshire was Ayrshire in the script. but when it came out onto the stage, she‘s standing there warming herselfat the fire and he‘d say. ‘That‘s your airse you‘re bakin‘.‘
Bruce Morton So they‘d get past some ofthe vetting.
A.L. Yes. The Lord Chamberlain didn‘t know what it meant. The place was full of Women‘s Guilds that went to laugh at the other side of town.
B.M. I‘m conscious of this Variety tradition that
V PANTO SHOCKER
Philip Parr digs up the unsavoury truth behind this year’s innocuous batch oi traditional pantos.
I Aladdin Old Athenacum. Glasgow. and Palace Theatre. Kilmarnock.
Based on one ofthose innocent little
Angus is referring to. I don‘t think that‘s as strong I
Arabian Nights stories (told to keep their teller from the chop). Aladdin was first performed at Covent Garden in 1788. Widow Twankey came out of the fertile imagination of the writcrofthat show. HJ. Byron. and has been a feature ever since.
I Babes In The Wood King‘s Theatre.
Virtually always combined with Robin Hood. Babes cannot really
ANGUS LENNIE, Stanley Baxter's Ugly Sister in Cinderella, comes head to head with BRUCE MORTON, writer of The Treasure of Wookimagoo, to discuss dodgy jokes, cross- dressing and the great days of Music Hall. Jon Stark snaps it up while Mark Fisher scribbles it down.
stand up on its own and is more a vehicle to get as many cute kids on stage as is possible. In 1880, London society was shocked by not only Robin, but all ofhis merry men, being of the opposite gender.
I Cinderella Pavilion, Glasgow and King‘s Theatre, Edinburgh.
Cinders was written down by Charles Perrault in 1690, but is at least 1000 years old. The genuine story is not so
now and in many ways that‘s a shame. Of course, '
a lot ofwhat we recognise as alternative comedy has come out of that Variety tradition with novelty acts and strange characters. Certainly The Treasure of Wookimagoo is a trad panto. There are old jokes in it. but I‘m trying to subvert them. So. for example, when one character says, ‘Is that a doughnut or a meringue?‘, that joke won‘t be resolved. because the audience will be so familiar with it that it‘ll be funny enough to leave. The only thing I‘ve discarded from the traditional pantomime format is a witch. I have a baddy, the Pirate Queen. who is extremely evil in the Long John Silver/Captain Hook mould. But I think witches generally get a hard time. lfyou think ofwitchcraft as a religion and if it was to be the Wicked Hindu from the West. there would be quite rightly an outcry. Wookimagoo, you can say what you like about it, but it‘s right-on! Rather than discarding things I‘ve taken as much as I can of the traditional elements. I haven‘t got the cross-dressing— I do that at home!
A.L. You should get paid for what you do at home!
B.M. I do actually. but that‘s another profession a bit older than pantomime and we can maybe talk about it in the next interview!
For instance the audience participation bits, I’ve got loads of that. I‘ve also tried to bring one or two more contemporary participative events— I hope that we‘ll have the whole of the Tron Theatre doing a ‘Mexican wave‘. We‘ll have new things that will sit well in that tradition.
A.L. We don‘t have a witch either if it comes to that. but that‘s only because of the story. There‘s
much rags-to-riches as riches-to-rags-to-riches. Cinderella was originally a princess who had to flee her palace because of the unwanted attentions ofher father (well. he was missing his wife wasn't he?)
I Dick Wittington Motherwell Civic Theatre. Village Theatre East Kilbridc. and Churchill Theatre. Edinburgh.
14 The List 23 November— 6 December 1990