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Digital Subscriptions > Attitude > 265 > He’s Behind You!

He’s Behind You!

WITH CROSS DRESSING AND INNUENDO, PANTOMIME SEEMS THE QUEEREST OF THEATRICAL GENRES. BUT IS IT REALLY? JON BRADFIELD, WRITER OF THE UK'S BEST GAY PANTO, ASKS IF THE ART FORM IS AS DIVERSE AND INCLUSIVE AS IT SEEMS – OH NO IT ISN’T!
LEFT - JOSEPH LYCETT-BARNES (AS PRINCE CHARMING) / MIDDLE - ELLEN BUTLER (AS THE COUNTESS) / RIGHT - GRANT CARTWRIGHT (AS CINDERS) / BOTTOM - LUCAS MEREDITH (AS BUTTONS) IN ABOVE THE STAG THEATRE'S TINDERELLA - CINDERS SLIPS IT IN

Pantomime is big. Surprisingly big for a theatrical form that is barely known outside of Britain. The British Empire might have left a proud legacy of railways and homophobia across the globe but apart from a smattering of off erings in Canada, Australia and Jamaica, it’s only in the UK and Ireland that Christmas explodes with theatre’s most colourful, widelyappealing and interactive genre. You won’t hear “he’s behind you” in Swahili. Over the last festive season in the UK, 8,108,108 tickets were available for 10,731 performances of 273 different pantos. Had all those tickets been sold the collective box off ce would have been £145,988,307.

Panto for many children is their first experience of theatre. With its promise of songs and jokes, and familiar faces, customs and stories, it off ers a guarantee other shows can’t.

My first was Snow White at the Grand Theatre in Wolverhampton when I was five. We sat up in the Gods – the glorious euphemism for the cheap seats in the balcony – and at the interval we had little cartons of juice my parents brought from home. Ten years later they started taking us to the RSC, and again out came the cartons. I’m humbled by their finding ways to afford it, and admire their brilliant imperviousness to commercial pressure. Entertaining kids is expensive.

The magic of that first Snow White show planted a seed. The way the painted front cloth seemed to dissolve and vanish to reveal a village scene populated entirely with smiling dancers in pairs. The same trick brought the Queen’s magic mirror to life. The dwarves entered their mine down a big red slide. Even a 5-year-old could understand how it was all done, but that made it more impressive, somehow. Magic that was attainable. Years later, my career is in theatre, working for London producers Out of Joint which recently staged the play about Gareth Thomas, Crouch, Touch, Pause, Engage.

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About Attitude

In a world exclusive first magazine cover shoot, Years and Years singer Olly Alexander tells us about his amazing rise to the top of the charts, his struggles with depression – and dealing with heartache as he splits up from his boyfriend, clean bandit’s Neil Amin-Smith. Inside, our review of the year looks at the most records, films and TV programmes that have shaped your year. We interview the gay owners of the controversial Cereal Killer Café, meet four amazing trans men set to redefine trans awareness and meet a man who is fighting back against the gentrification of the gay scene. Plus fashion, film, fitness and everything you’d expect from a regular issue of Attitude.
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