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Three down, one to go

November 25, 2018

Final show this afternoon. The audiences for yesterday’s two performances could have been bigger and certainly could have been more enthusiastic, but nobody fell off the stage, so it could have been worse. This afternoon’s matinee is sold out, so fingers crossed there will be plenty of booing.

Now, while my wrap party cake is in the oven, a few words about my leading lady.

captain jack and mary

It’s true that the director of this year’s panto pleaded and cajoled with me to get me to agree to take on the role of the pirate captain, but it wasn’t until she’d told me Alex had agreed to play the dame, that I had any real enthusiasm for the project.

In 2014, in response to some nasty homophobic incidents on the island (including the defacing with homophobic bible quotes of posters for a show called Lesbian Etiquette), I decided to direct a production of Inherit the Wind. This was a slightly mad decision as I’d never directed a play before and this one had a huge cast. A number of the actors involved were first timers, one of whom was Alex. (He played the school teacher on trial for daring to teach evolution.)

Later that year, as there was no one else available to do so, I agreed to direct the panto. Another massive undertaking. I decided, if I was going to direct it, I was going to have to find a script I really liked, not just some variation of Puss N’Bloody Boots. I started investigating the various UK sites that offer panto scripts and on the third or fourth I found something that intrigued me: Will Shakespeare the Panto! Okay, that was interesting.

Alex played my Will Shakespeare, in what turned out to be the world premiere of the newly written script.

The following spring I directed him again as a male supporter of the suffragette movement in What Glorious Times They Had.

Around about the time that show ended, I realised no one else was stepping forward with an offer to direct the 2015 panto. (After Shakespeare, I’d made it clear that I’d taken my turn and it was up to someone else.) I think directing a panto must be like giving birth. When it’s first over, you swear never again, but after a while…

I decided to see what other panto scripts Robin Bailes (author of Will Shakespeare) had written. There were a few, two of which were Robin Hood and his Merry Men and Babes in the Wood (or The Return of Robin Hood).  I ordered copies of both scripts. I actually liked the latter more than the former, but realised it would be ridiculous not to do them back to back. To the relief of the board, I told them that I would be willing, not only to direct that year’s panto, but the following year’s as well.

Alex was my Robin Hood.

So, I’ve directed him five times, but I’d never had a chance to act with him. That was the real selling point to me about this panto.

I thought acting with Alex would be fun and I was right. It’s been a riot.

Hope I get to do it again.

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