Panto time.

I went to the Panto the other day (Oh yes I did!).

It was my wife’s idea to go – and what a good idea it was. We kept it secret from the kids until we were actually in the theatre foyer. You should have seen their faces (they were happy).

I walk past Stevenage’s Gordon Craig Theatre twice every day (not out of habit, out of necessity). They’ve got a whacking great banner and a window display advertising this year’s panto, Aladdin, starring me old mate John Altman (nasty Nick in EastEnders) – see My Celebrity Whirl Panto Edition for the backstory.

Paul Laidlaw: writer, director, Twanky.

After seeing it advertised for so many weeks, I was intrigued to see the show – and the inside of the Gordon Craig theatre itself. I wasn’t disappointed.

I have it on good authority that Widow Twanky (or the guy that plays him) writes and directs the show. Well that’s not a secret, but the word is as soon as he’s finished this year’s run, he’s straight on the next one. This is a man who spends his entire working life in Pantoland – like that bloke who used to celebrate Christmas every day until he ran out of money.

He must spend the year sourcing giant golden lamps, auditioning dwarves and collecting all the cracker jokes he can find.

To be fair, it was very entertaining. Wishy Washy stood out for me – a real tour de force, as those West End reviewers might say.

To top it off, my wife and I even caught the marshmallows they threw into the audience – and we were in Row L!

The view from Row L.

Their run comes to an end on January 24 – that’s nearly 2 months – with matinees too. That’s a lot of “he’s-behind-you”s. Add in rehearsals and the cast and crew have spent a quarter of the year in Panto.

They must have difficulty adjusting to society afterwards; constantly wary of custard pies or saying “Hello boys and girls” every time they walk into a room.

Can’t wait for next year’s extravaganza. Good show chaps, I’ll be back next year.

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