Thursday, 18 September 2014

Birthmonth Day Eighteen: Jack And The Beanstalk

Obligatory first legal drink, despite having always been and always will being completely tee-total.
Also note collection of 18 certificate films I went out and legally bought that day.

I worked in the FOH of a theatre for three or four years and so I saw a lot of shows that I didn’t pay for.  I didn’t see as many shows as you might think, because at some point I was promoted from usher to manager and rarely had time to spend in the auditorium after that, other than when dealing with complaints or lying on the floor between patrons’ feet scraping up sick with bits of ice cream box.  And even when I was an usher and spent 95% of The Shift in the auditorium (actually, 75% of The Shifts were spent manning the sweet counter), I was one of those crazy people who actually do the job they are paid to do, and I was looking at the audience not the stage.

But even so, I got to absorb a lot of… ‘culture’.

The very first show I ever worked was Voulez Vous – The ABBA Story (29th September 2006).  I thought it was going to be Mamma Mia, so I was very disappointed.  Which shows what I know.  Imagine being excited to see Mamma Mia.

The first good show I worked was Titanic The Musical by Portsmouth Players (16th-21st October 2006).  I have been asking for the soundtrack to this show ever since on The Amazon Wishlist.  Eight years later and STILL NO ONE HAS BOUGHT IT FOR ME.

The first WORST show I worked was Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown (26th October 2006), which came with its own bouncers who circled the audience with flashlights, to make sure no one wanted to bottle the ‘star’.

The longer I worked at the theatre, the harder it was for shows to impress me.  (You can only sit through the same rubbish so many times).

I generally wouldn’t ask to work a specific show, because again, there to work, not get freebies, but I recall specifically requesting The Manager allow me to work in the auditorium for Mad About The Musicals (21st April 2007) because I thought it was exactly the kind of show I would love.  I was wrong.  It was awful.  Lesson learned.

I did get free tickets to see Blood Brothers (30th April-5th May 2007) though.  And is it ever awful.  Awful awful awful.  There, that’s an in depth critique done.

I worked four pantomimes in my time.  I liked the first one, Jack And The Beanstalk (13th December 2006-7th January 2007), although after working every shift I went a little deranged – the ‘well we’ll have to sing it again then woo’/‘it’s behind you’ scene and a scene including Chu-Chi Face between Tony Adams and the dame made me deliriously happy every single show, but the noise of the Big Brother theme that played every time Craig Phillips from Big Brother walked on stage just flicked The Kill Button.
But Carl Johns was an energetic comic relief and the romance between Paul Parris’s Jack and Filipa Jeronimo’s Jill was something you could actually care about because they were already interested in each other but too shy to say it before the plot started, and the audience went BATSHIT every time they sang their love song (something from High School Musical) which was a really amazing experience first hand, and Jack was an idiot which was funny.  Oh, and the giant (some kind of huge manned puppet suit) was really impressive.

Next came Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs (New Pantomime Productions/13th December 2007-6th January 2008) which irritated me because Sophie McDonnell was blonde, when Snow White is supposed to have black hair – which I wouldn’t mind, except they kept in a line when the mirror or something described a maiden with hair as black as the raven.  COME ON.  Edit the line, dammit.  But I fancied Mark Raffety’s prince, who was a bit of a bastard, so that made it worthwhile, even if I did repeatedly annoy him by bringing him children for the audience interaction scene who were far too young and clammed up in fear once they got on stage leaving him with nothing to work with.  That’ll teach him to slam a door in my face once.

Then was Cinderella (New Pantomime Productions Ltd/10th December 2008-4th January 2009) which was utterly forgettable and exactly the same script as the previous year, redeemed only by an amazing performance from Simon Grant as Buttons.

And finally I worked Aladdin (9th December 2009-3rd January 2010) which was interesting because the script had to be a little bit different for a change and involved several scantily clad and very toned men doing impressive gymnastics, which I didn’t know until then is EXTREMELY HOT.  Who knew.

I’ll tell you about the good shows I saw later.

Have you ever seen a good panto?


  1. I quite liked Cinderella, largely because Tamara Wall had such a good singing voice. Like, make-sure-you're-in-the-auditorium good. I remember being quite frightened of the Ugly Sisters, largely because I'd heard they were a bit mean and weird in real life.

    1. The only thing I recall about Tamara Wall is that she asked for the children who go on stage to be her relatives one day and I had to say no because someone had pre-booked the slot. She should have tried planning ahead.


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