I'll be honest and say that the last time our speakers club did a Panto I really though, "Oh God, I hope we never do one of those again!"
I'd pretty much given up my brief career as an amateur thespian some years before meeting Herself (much to the relief of the theatre going public) and was bemused to have found myself volunteered for a part in the pantomime.
For those of you that are unfamiliar with British culture a pantomime is a very peculiar type of theatre production that traditionally occurs between November - January. It is usually based loosely on a fairy tale, such as Cinderella, Babes In The Wood, Puss In Boots - or else stories like Dick Whittington (thrice Mayor of London and never once introduced a congestion charge, or bid to hold the Olympic Games)
The main characters are usually:
Principal Boy - we'll take the story of Ali Ba-Ba and the Forty Thieves (which is a Panto staple as well). The Principal Boy (in this case Ali Ba-Ba) is always played by a woman
Principal Girl - the main love interest. As wet as a flannel left in an overflowing sink. Also played by a girl
Adding to this rampant tale of lesbianism (although for the purposes of the play we all take for granted that the woman playing the principal boy is a boy - don't ask) we have:
The Villain - usually a wicked step father or uncle, sometimes a wicked witch. The key thing for any actor playing the baddie is to start with hamming it up, work from there to dangerously over the top and keep going until you have achieved the type of villain last seen tying damsels to train lines in silent movies - and then take it one step further. The first time I was in a panto it was as Chief Weasel in Wind In The Willows - a performance that was so over the top that i had trouble staying on the stage
A Man In Drag - usually the Panto Dame. Sometimes this is the mother of the hero, sometimes the Ugly Sisters dependent on the story
There's usually a lot of slapstick humour for the kids, a few minor celebrities, innuendo for the adults, outrageous costumes and a hell of a lot of shouting "Oh No It Isn't" - or "It's Behind You!"
But yet again the hand of fate reached out and slapped my jowels as my long term friend and partner in musical crime Argent decided that it would be fun to revive the Speakers Club Panto and that she was going to write it.
This changed the situation from "Ye gods, no!" to, "Hmmm, now that could be fun..."
She came up with the idea of Ali Blah Blah And The Forty Thieves (which eventually became The Forty-ish Thieves, due to keeping numbers involved in the panto to achievable figures - and explained in the story as being due to the thieves being outsourced to another country)
About half-way through the plot Argent found herself a bit stuck, so I chipped in with some jokes quietly inspired by Monty Python's Flying Circus (four years training in the sound effects centre in Barrow In Furness...just for a sodding door bell) and about rival speaker clubs in the area (I bet they can afford proper nuts at their club - they've got plenty of nuts from what i hear) - and added a few songs (mostly re-worked famous songs). Argent set about making it all make sense and suddenly we had a very funny and very well written story
Also, and due largely to a concert that both Argent and I had attended in December, we also had two more advantages than the last Panto - two Ukelele's
We had given ourselves the roles of Thief #1 and Thief #2 (my only regret being that I couldn't think of an easy way to get T-shirts with this on, a la 1960s Batman) and In-house musicians - IE the most fun parts in the show
Also - in order to save anyone the pain of actually learning lines we decided to do it as a Radio Show - ie to pretend that we were all radio actors recording in front of a live studio audience - I even built a couple of pretend mikes and covered them in silver foil
And rather amazingly - it all worked really, really well. Our President, as the constantly complaining Sound Effects Technician was suitably enthusiastic, our villain had clearly turned her amplifier not just to 11 but to 12 (see Spinal Tap if you don't get the reference), and the undisputed star of the show was our "man in drag" as Tinkerbell - with his high-pitched voice that kept (deliberately) breaking into a low baritone
No one threw anything, no one lost any limbs and no one died - all vital signs of a successful show and people laughed in most of the right places - plus everyone seemed to enjoy the Ukeleles - so a good evening in all.