Panto: Tips From The Theatre Green Room
Who'd have thought it?
POSTED BY DAVID PIBWORTH ON 22/12/2015 @ 8:00AM
I'm currently sitting in the Green Room in the Haverhill Theatre in between the matinee and evening shows. I learn something new every year in panto. Sometimes it's how to get another laugh with an old gag or routine. Often it's as easy as adding a new sound effect or just topicalising the subject matter ...
My panto partner in crime Phil introduces me to the solution to keeping my false eyelashes on!
As a director, I have to listen to the younger members of the cast for inspiration. I have never watched a reality TV show in my life, so references to Rita Ora and Lady C mean nothing whatsoever to me, but we added them in at certain points and the audience love it.
I have no clue as to why they laugh at them, never having clapped eyes on Rita or Lady C, but a laugh is a laugh. On the other hand, some of our younger team members have never heard of my points of reference in comedy such as Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy and Morecambe and Wise, so we all teach each other how to get gags in, old and new.
However, my main panto tip of the day is a fashion tip. I play an ugly sister as well as directing and, over the years, I've come to be quite expert at slapping on the old makeup 'Dame' style.
Lipstick, eye shadow and blusher hold no fears for me ... but it's the eyelashes that have always proved 'the real bugger' as we say in light entertainment.
We use quite eccentric eyelashes. Mine this year are red and very long and, as usual, it's the sticking them on that's the problem. The glue provided is useless and mine were forever hanging off or, in some cases, coming right off and searching for them on a dusty stage floor is a pain in the neck.
This year my ugly sister partner, Phil, bounced into the dressing room with a new solution and you'll never guess what it was. It was a pot of Copydex. You can see my makeup in the attached photo and there it is beside my eyelashes.
"A small amount of Copydex dribbled on the lash is perfect for keeping them in place."
The dancers are appalled at us for using it, but I'm used to doing things my own way. I well remember the RSC actors being horrified at my 'warm up' technique when I was in 'The Tempest' in London. While they went through the more established vocal exercises, I had a roll-up fag and a bottle of Red Bull outside the stage door. However I never push my ideas on anyone else and we all have our 'Coping Mechanisms' as they say in poncey talk.
So Copydex it is and the real beauty of it is that 1) a whole bottle will probably last us our entire panto career and 2) I stuck down a bit of rogue carpet in the dressing room with it on Friday.
Adaptability is the name of the game.
Until next time ...
David is the owner of David Pibworth Productions (DPP) which provide corporate entertainment and also actors for corporate training and development.
Having worked in the Light Entertainment field for many years and produced shows for Al Murray & Joe Pasquale amongst others, David is in a position to advise on well-known comedy and musical acts. DPP also represent Ray Galton and Alan Simpson's scripts which include Hancock's Half Hour and Steptoe and Son.
He is the director of MK Theatre of Comedy who are very well known locally for their stage adaptations of classic comedy scripts such as Fawlty Towers, The Vicar of Dibley, Allo Allo and many others.
He is a long-standing member of Equity and the Directors Guild of Great Britain and has acted in, and directed, many productions over the years, mainly in Light Entertainment, but with occasional forays into Shakespeare etc. Every Christmas he is contracted as an Ugly Sister in Cinderella, currently with 'That's Entertainment' who also use him as a director.
He teaches eccentric magic for The Pauline Quirke Academy and MKTOC also run a youth drama school in Olney from the DPP offices.
David maintains his busy lifestyle is a surefire way to avoid being on any committees. He is married to Julie, and they have one daughter, Esther and live in Clifton Reynes, surrounded by dogs, cats and horses. They live so close to the church that David has instructed his daughter - when he dies and not before - to fire him over the wall from a circus cannon.