We took the tube in. Nathan sat down and I stood in one of the vestibules near the doors, minding my own business, reading a newspaper. I was quite engrossed in a piece in the Metro about Charles Manson, who is apparently about to shuffle off into the wilderness. Probably about time. Anyway, I was vaguely aware that the tube had pulled into a station and moments later I felt the most enormous slap on my arse which made me yell out loud through shock. I composed myself and assumed I'd turn around to see someone I knew, but was astonished to find a little old lady standing there looking rather sheepish. People sitting opposite me on the tube were laughing hysterically. It seems the old lady had tripped whilst getting onto the tube and slapped my arse in an attempt to keep herself upright, which she'd managed to do! It was utterly surreal. I haven't had my arse slapped a great many times in my life, but this was certainly the biggest wallop it's ever received!
Speaking of smut, the panto was wonderful. Utterly diverting. It transported us both into a 1970s world of glitter, double entendre, spinning lights, swirling costumes and pyrotechnics. The cast was stellar. Where else would you get to see Paul O'Grady and Julian Clary sharing top billing. I believe they're good friends in real life, and they certainly seemed to have a great rapport on stage. Surprisingly, their comedy alter egos don't cancel each other out. O'Grady is the housewives' choice and kept it sardonic and relatively clean. Clary did the filthy double entendres, in fact, quite a lot of the time, double became single and I found myself gasping and checking around to see how the parents of the children in the audience were responding. Thing is, Clary is a master, so I'm quite convinced the kids would simply have thought he was goofing around and saying rude things which only parents would understand.
As it happened there were surprisingly few children in the capacity audience. I have never sat in a theatre where every seat was filled like that. We almost had to fight our way in.
The cast also included Nigel Havers, Amanda Holden and Lee Mead, who has started singing with a very strange, somewhat strangled American accent. Surely when you play Prince Charming you have to keep the vocals plummy and even if you go for an American accent when you sing, it has to sound nice! If he's the best we've got in terms of West End talent, then we're done for.
That said, by early January, pantomime performers have usually sung themselves ragged and are doing anything they can simply to generate sound. Paul O'Grady was suffering from a cold, which, I assume, explained the arrival on stage of a hitherto unintroduced ensemble member, brilliantly fronting a massive gospel number. One assumes this was O'Grady's understudy.
One of the stars of the show was ventriloquist, Paul Zerdin, whom, I read, won America's Got Talent (despite being a Brit.)
As is often the case with panto, the music was a mixture of original songs and well-known pop with new lyrics. As such it ticked all the boxes, but I'd have shot the lyricist for his almost inveterate inability to scan lyrics properly. I'm witnessing this increasingly in West End shows. It is vital to stress words in music in a natural way, or your singers sound retarded and no one in the audience knows what's being said!
The audience seemed to have a wonderful time, although every time something big happened on stage, the mobile phones all came out and everyone started filming. At one point I just wanted to shout "enjoy the moment, people!" I looked at the guy to my left, and discovered he was on Facebook posting pictures of himself watching the action. It was almost too meta. Minutes later, he was on an online gambling site. Plainly he'd paid £40 merely to be able to say that he'd sat in the Palladium whilst a show happened in the background!