Over the years I’ve had the great pleasure of being in three Scottish Pantomimes, and each year we take our Pantomime Roadshow to Glasgow on behalf of the SECC.
To my delight, the Millennium was spent at the King’s Theatre Edinburgh in “Cinderella”. I couldn’t have wished to be anywhere else on this historic New Year, and the atmosphere on the Royal Mile and on Princes Street that night will remain forever!
I’ve had the opportunity to work with some amazing Scots performers, from Andy Grey, Fiona Kennedy, Allan Stewart, Joyce Falconer, Billy Riddoch and the incredible Dorothy Paul in those shows. I also got to work with Scotland’s finest Company Stage Managers-the late Stuart McLean.
Both Edinburgh and Glasgow have their own King’s Theatres, Aberdeen has His Majesty’s, and Glasgow has the Paviilion Theatre, where backstage feels like being in a submarine, and the stalls boasts a gorgeous “Passorelle” running over the orchestra pit.
The King of Panto in Scotland to this day must surely be Stanley Baxter. This Christmas just past Stanley talked about the halcyon days of panto in Scotland on Barbara Windsor’s Radio programme- aired on Christmas Day. I missed him by a few hours when I recorded my contribution at the BBC.
This production of “Aladdin” had the glamorous Principal boy Pat Michael in the title role. Pat did several Stanley Baxter Pantomimes, and a few with Danny La Rue. She is now directing pantomimes in her adopted Connecticut each year, with help from Jack Watters and the odd script from me!
I missed being in a Stanley Baxter Panto many years ago! It was my fourth year in Pantomimes, and I had just played Goose in “Mother Goose” at the Haymarket Leicester. I had done three “Geese” at that point, and Stanley’s director Bruce McLure asked me if I would work for him and Stanley Baxter the following year. To be honest, the prospect of doubling up in a wire cage covered in feathers and wearing webbed feet for a fourth time didn’t agree with me at the time, so I went on to stand upright and do “Puss” in “Puss In Boots instead! It would have been a magic panto though!
Later on as “Sister” with Peter Robbins we both got the chance to work in the shadow of Stanley and his partner Angus Lennie so to speak. We played “Cinderella” for a good few years in the Stanley Baxter set (designed by Terry Parsons) in Edinburgh and around the country. You could still see the names of the Sisters- Stanley’s was “Natalie” painted on the wall above the boudoir.
These are just a few handbills from my collection of Scottish Pantomimes with some of the legends who perform there. The current Scottish stars are The Krankies- Jeanette and Ian. Each year they appear (with John Barrowman) at the enormous SECC in Glasgow.
Last year was “Dick McWhittington” and This year it is “Cinderella”. The lucky “Sisters” there will be Graham Hoadly and Pete Gallagher.
Starring in the beautiful His Majesty’s Theatre Aberdeen once again is Elaine C Smith, Alan McHugh and Jordan Young. The Panto there this year is “Beauty and The Beast”.
The Music Hall there is home to many of the Aberdeen Theatres departments. I remember playing The Capital” when it was a theatre, having been a huge cinema, and having to clear my dressing room out for one night to let Howard Keel use it! The icing on the cake!
I’ve enjoyed a few evenings with Fiona Kennedy and her clan at Aberdeen, and had the pleasure of meeting her late father Calum Kennedy several times. Very happy memories of Aberdeen. When we went there recently with The Panto Roadshow I was shocked to discover my cute and bijou dressing room is no more. It is now occupied by the lift shaft! I knew it was small but….!!
Francie & Josie
Here are a few more handbills and some wonderful Scottish stars. Enjoy a wee tilt of the kilt!