That Panto Magic – by Duncan Harley

There’s a splendidly written panto review in today’s Times in Scotland penned by the redoubtable Allan Radcliffe. Titled 'This recycled panto scrubs up most agreeably', Allan’s take on Aladdin @ Glasgow’s King’s Theatre rang some familiar bells.
‘There is much that is familiar in this year’s beano, from the dazzling orange-and-yellow colour scheme that infuses the set and costumes to the traditional final song sheet’ he writes. ‘Indeed, several of the comic set pieces will stir a strong sense of déjà vu in anyone who has seen a panto from the Qdos entertainment stable, in recent years.’

I could not concur more. That is, if that Scrabble six letter word concur word makes any sense any more.

As one who has endured a good many panto offerings - some good and some completely awful, and indeed a great many spectacularly difficult theatrical failures over the years, that pattern of hoary old asides and inuendo-laden-jokes has become de rigueur. ‘Look behind you’ is but one and ‘Oh no you won’t’ follows second best. I could go on …

In the big scheme of things however panto is just that – pantomime. Often the first point of contact with live entertainment for kids of all ages and backgrounds, pantomime can afford to be repetitive. In fact, maybe that’s the whole point of it. We take our kids once a year and perhaps a generation or so later they take their own kids to experience the magic of fairy queens, difficult sisters and helpful dwarfs first hand.

Last years Aladdin @ HMT Aberdeen starred Jimmy Osmond as arch-villain Abanazar. In a final scene Widow Twankey is heard to call out “What shall we do with him now?’ A young voice from the front stalls cries out “Kill him! Chop off his head.”
Quick as a flash, Twankey replies “We can do pretty much anything in Panto, but the one thing we can’t do is kill Jimmy Osmond.”

I am happy to report that Allan’s splendid review of the Glasgow Aladdin recalls a similar scenario when, following a unanimous call from folk in the front stalls to kill the unfortunate Abanazar, Elaine C. Smith – AKA Widow Twankey – retorts “Aye, welcome tae Glesga”.
Aye, the magic of panto …

My take on the Aberdeen genre of the beast - soon to be re-published in Aberdeen Voice - is at: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Duncan Harley is author of The A-Z of Curious Aberdeenshire plus the forthcoming title: The Little History of Aberdeenshire - due out in March 2019


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