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David Pibworth | The Blog

Actor, Writer, Producer, Director

Panto: Tips From The Theatre Green Room

Who'd have thought it?



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!

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 ...


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More about David Pibworth ...

David is the owner of David Pibworth Productions who provides entertainment for theatre and corporate events. This ties in very well with The Arches Theatre, an outside venue that David owns underneath a disused railway line, equidistant from Bedford, Northampton and Milton Keynes. This was one of the few venues that could operate with social distancing in place during the summer of 2020 and where they ran everything from Shakespeare to Richard Digance through the summer months.

David has been involved in light entertainment for many years, even going back as far as working on a production with Norman Wisdom in London. He has a knack of keeping in touch with everyone he's worked with and would bring such people as Chas and Dave, Kenny Ball and Acker Bilk round to play locally when the chance arose.

His company also represent the stage rights for Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, the writers of Steptoe and Son and Hancock's Half Hour. He has recently negotiated permission with Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais to produce Porridge on stage although this is all hampered by the current situation and the availability of theatres.

Next year, at the Arches Theatre, he will produce Ripping Yarns, written by Michael Palin and Terry Jones. This will be an interesting production as not only does one episode involve playing a football match, but also with the agreement of Michael Palin and the wife of the late Terry Jones, it has been decided that all the profits on this production will go to a dementia charity as Terry Jones died as a result of dementia, as did David's father and uncle.

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On 31st March 2018 ...