Our new Christmas blog series gives audiences the chance to rave about their own pantomime. Here, Glasgow regular Alan Hussey explains why he thinks there’s no other place to get your pantomime fix this festive season than at his local, which this year is Sleeping Beauty starring Elaine C Smith and Johnny Mac.
I have been attending the pantomime at the famous King’s Theatre Glasgow for over 40 years now. Like a lot of people in the west of Scotland it is a family tradition to get together around the festive period and head to the theatre and lose yourself in the magical land of music, dance and lots of laughs.
I honestly can’t remember the first pantomime I attended, but it would have been the mid ’70s. As far back as I can remember I always associated Christmas with the panto at the King’s Theatre. The one performance that I can always remember was the 1981 production of Babes in the Wood. That year featured my all time favourite pantomime and theatre legends – Rikki Fulton and Jack Milroy aka Francie and Josie.
Although these two appeared in many TV programmes and other theatre performances throughout their career, the King’s panto is where they were really able to show off their comedy talents – they relished the opportunity to ad-lib and bring something new into the show. If you never got the chance to see those comedy legends, look them up on the internet. Though there’s not much panto footage, there is still plenty of recordings available. To me these two summed up what panto was all about, amazing sets, costumes, comedy and laughter.
As a child there were some years I would see the King’s panto up to three times. I always remember going with the Boys Brigade and with my father’s work. It was a tradition in the ’70s and ’80s for many companies in the Glasgow area to arrange tickets and run buses for their employees’ families. As a kid it was an amazing experience. In those days I remember always sitting up in the upper circle or the gallery where you would cheer the goodies and boo the baddies, not forgetting the famous ‘Oh no you’re not’ and ‘He’s behind you’. Even now as an adult taking your children, you look around and the parents become kids again.
I have carried on the panto tradition with my three kids and for the last 15 years have arranged the group booking for my office. On average I organize 1000 tickets for the King’s panto every year. In 2012 for the production of Cinderella I took out every seat in the theatre, managing to sell over 1700 seats and making £1500 for charity on the sales. Every year, new families come along and for many of them this is their first ever trip to the theatre and I can guarantee they will return the following year. The pantomime is a great way to introduce young children to the world of theatre and once they get immersed in all the music and lights they are hooked and hopefully from there they will return to other theatre productions and keep live theatre thriving. Walking into a theatre as grand as the King’s makes you look around in awe – over 100 years steeped in history.
In organising the group tickets for so many years, I have got to know the staff at the King’s Theatre and have managed to meet many of the stars that have performed in panto. One of the true kings of panto being the late great Gerard Kelly, as a family we met him a couple of times and he lightened up a room off stage as well. All these actors are amazing at what they do and give the joy of laughter to everyone. A lot of these stars would agree that although other theatres do pantomimes there is something magical about the King’s panto – a pantomime like no other.
Sleeping Beauty runs at the King’s Theatre in Glasgow until 7 January.