Liam Rudden: Tradition is the key to a good panto

CHRISTMAS show or pantomime? What do you prefer? Although, in all honesty, often there’s very little to choose between the two these days.

For me, it’s got to be the panto every time, that high camp musical mix of slapstick, gags and age-old routines that have been handed down the generations.

Nothing says Christmas more than the sight of a cross-dressing actor mincing across the stage in search of their glaikik ‘Silly Billy’ son.

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That said, panto is changing. The festive celebrations that held kids of all ages enthralled have evolved over the decades. For example, when was the last time you saw a principal boy played by a girl? Or witnessed the sheer mayhem of a well constructed sweetie shower?

Sadly, sweetie showers have now gone the way of political correctness in many cases, a shame because, as the few theatres who still retain them know, they add an extra excitement for the kids in the audience.

Sweets aren’t the only things to be found lacking these days either. The old ghost routine, which requires the audience to play their part by calling out ‘It’s Behind You’ as the cast remain oblivious to the threat, also finds itself cut from many productions.

As does the communal song or song-sheet as it’s better known. Even the famous ‘Hiya Pals’, the war cry of generations of comics playing Buttons or Silly Billy has disappeared in recent years.

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Which is a shame, because as each element fades, so the age-old art of pantomime becomes ever more diminished.

One of the reasons I try to ensure that the pantos I write and direct (to win tickets to Cinderella at Dunfermline’s Alhambra see P3) all have the well-loved traditional elements as well as a twist or two to keep them fresh.

After all, it would a shame if generations of music hall tradition and history were to disappear completely. Oh yes it would!

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