Plenty of Panto Pangs

The Great Gordino in pantoThere is a documentary on TV at the moment, following seven dwarves as they work and live together doing a panto season. It’s really got me thinking back to the pantos I did, so I thought I’d delve into my past…

The show is called ‘Seven Dwarves’, and it brings back the memories for me because it focuses not on the performance aspect of a show, but the everyday situation outside of the show.

When people go and see a show, they only see the performer for that time on stage, so it’s easy to mentally box that performer in those surroundings. In this particular TV show, the people concerned are dwarves, but it’s the whole life process as preparation for the show that fascinates me.

I’ve done 4 panto tours, living and working with the rest of the cast for up to 10 weeks. The main difference was that I did touring shows. That means travelling around to a different venue every day, often up to 3 different venues a day!

It also meant living in different places. Sometimes it would be a cheap travel lodge, more often than not it was hired accommodation, but it was always basic! Being in the same place 2 nights running was the exception!

Plus, the whole show had to be carted around – scenery, props, costume, sound system, lights – that all had to be unpacked, set up, packed up afterwards, then loaded back onto the van, for every show.

When you combine the travelling, the different accommodation, the transporting of the whole show together, you can see that there was something underpinning the whole exercise, and that something is hard, hard work.

Add to that the actual show, which could be 2 hours, up to 3 times a day, for week after week, and that’s showbiz, folks!

The show gave a real high, bringing pleasure to audiences ranging from 50 to 1500 in size was a real buzz, but you needed that burst of high, because the slog of weeks on the road gave plenty of lows!

Being effectively tied to 5 strangers who made up the cast threw up some real challenges – you didn’t choose them, but you had to live with them pretty much 24/7 for weeks. Imagine living with randomly chosen work colleagues for 8 weeks – sound appealing?

Don’t get me wrong, the fun and excitement is great! There is a tingle when you get the script, and on the first day of rehearsal.

Then you have the dress rehearsal, then there’s the first show, they all produce adrenaline rushes, and satisfaction that’s hard to describe. As the run gets into a pattern, the cast can have fun by developing bits in the show between them, there’s lots of laughter.

To get paid to do something that brings that much enjoyment is great.
I may yet go back and do another one. I suspect I may have over worried myself about them – let me explain…

It’s easy to look back on the experiences with rose coloured glasses, to only remember the good bits while forgetting the bad bits. I think that to counter that, I may have gone too far the other way, remembering the arguments, the physical and mental exhaustion, and putting those ahead of the sheer joy that was also had.

There are no understudies on a small touring show – if you’re ill, it’s a problem, a big problem. On my very first tour I had the flu. It was proper flu too, not just a bad cold.

I ended up with a bucket at the side of the stage, so I could go on and do some lines, come off and throw up, then go back on and do more lines. Eventually I had to stay in bed, and the rest of the crew had to rearrange the show, no easy task.

They were furious with me, and wanted me booted off the show. The management back in London told them to get on with it, but it made living and working with them a little more ‘atmospheric’ than I might have chosen!

It was certainly an adventure in life, and a possible repeat adventure if I wanted it.

Having written about goal achievement for many years, I know full well that’s it’s a decision based on balancing the rewards against the cost. The consequences of doing it, as well as not doing it, would sit squarely with me since I have plenty of experience to draw on.

So, next time you think of panto, think of little Gordino waiting to go onstage, bucket in hand, and make sure you appreciate every person on the stage!

You can read about more adventures, plus the theories and techniques that helped me along they way, in my book ‘Transform Your Life in 21 Days!’ I wrote it in 2003, and was thrilled to have it described as ‘motivational magic’. Go and read what some readers say, and grab your own copy!

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  • First, for those like me, panto means pantomime!
    I, too, did traveling theater, but our accommodations were generally the motor home that also transported the sets! And, my grandfather (rarely, but at least a few times) described his days in the circus, which your experiences seem to match more than mine.

    Yes, we learn to deal with all sorts of people- in all sorts of situations… Glad you shared both the fond- and (w)retched memories…

    • Thanks Roy,
      Yes, memories that won’t be going anywhere anytime soon!
      Still trying to find ways of repeating that kind of passion, but preferably with a touch more security!
      Cheers, Gordon