Once a pantomime run has finished it's not uncommon to hear a multitude of performers talking about the 'Post-Panto Blues'. It does sound a like a naturally over-the-top thing for an actor to say; but I can attest that I'm a sufferer and yesterday I had a bad case of the blues!
The magic of a show evaporates the moment the final curtain comes down; but for a performer it's not a gradual fade out as the last show progresses. You have to provide the same energy as you would for any other performance, except this time you are hurtling yourself towards nothing! No second show. No fun back at the digs. No thoughts about moving onto the next venue. It's a very weird feeling!
Yesterday when I woke up the blues manifested themselves in worrying about not having any work (despite having three jobs lined up, one of which I worked on later that day!)... Worrying about worrying about things I don't need to worry about... And worrying that I hadn't made any social plans.
As I was thinking about my last concern I realised that that was most probably the crux of the problem. Not that I hadn't made any social plans, but that for the last month I haven't had to because I've been surrounded by people. So maybe the problem was that I'd woken up lonely, which is weird for me because, actually, I really enjoy my own company - sometimes I even choose it over being social!
It's most probably made worse by the fact that panto gives me so much joy anyway; but it is certainly exacerbated by the fact that there wasn't a single person in the cast or crew whose company I didn't like! From my perspective I couldn't have felt luckier to be working with so many friends and people I didn't know that have become friends. Also, there was no crew / cast divide as there often can be. We all got along and worked as one homogeneous whole!
It all starts at the top: Paul, Debbie and Steve were all a lot of fun and incredibly easy company members to get along with and that sets the right tone. I guess that being a top of the bill is quite a lot of responsibility anyway; but the behaviour of the stars can affect a company massively. I've not worked with any that have caused huge problems, but Paul and Debbie are in another league. It wasn't unusual to find them selling tickets to the show whilst we were out for lunch, or even in the pub after a performance. They'll always autograph things, record video messages, have your friends and family meet them in their dressing room; nothing ever seems an effort. When that is how the faces of the show behave, you can't help but follow suit!
A lot of audience members that spoke to us afterwards said that it was really clear that we all got along and were having fun. I felt really proud that we had the opportunity to show this off to audiences outside of Sevenoaks and Dunstable; so that they could see the great atmosphere that a Magic Beans show has.
Touring a pantomime was actually a lot more fun than I was anticipating too. Changing venues every few days is great for keeping a show fresh and means that the company energy never really has a chance to dissipate, as you are constantly having to think on your toes. Of course, there's also the fact that everyone is always very excited to be somewhere new!
For me, my favourite places were Hunstanton and Southsea. Two beautiful seaside towns where we all stayed over; but there the similarities really stop! The theatre in Hunstanton is the size of a postage stamp and the whole show had to be re-jigged. The band were put up in the balcony. The Wonderland set was moved downstage (and sometimes into the audience, of it's own accord!) There was no way backstage from Stage Right, so everyone had to exit Stage Left or be trapped; one show I exited through the audience but didn't know the code to get backstage so had to sit outside with my fingers crossed until a member of staff walked passed!
Southsea could not have been more different! I had been really excited about going to the King's Theatre because I saw a pantomime there when I was about ten and absolutely fell in love with the place. Also, my Great-Grandad used to see shows there when he was in the Navy - so I knew that performing on the stage would feel significant.
It's such a glorious building; it feels like you're walking into a 'proper' theatre. The backstage areas are a cavern of corridors and little stairways that lead to tucked away rooms. The stage has working footlights (that I constantly thought I was going to fall into) and Frank Matcham's auditorium is beautiful and large, but designed so that no member of the audience feels very far away from you. We played to really great houses here too, which was very rewarding. It's a well run venue too. The team there seem very passionate about the building and I think that is reflected in the enthusiasm of the audience. There's a lot of love for the venue and I really think a lot of other theatres would benefit from being loved as much as the King's!
Mind you, I pretty much fell in love with Southsea as a whole. The morning of our stay in Southsea was just glorious - most probably my favourite non-show experience of the tour. Ant, Laura-Jane, myself and our CSM Rob Coupe all went to the beach and sort of became children. We found 'free art' on the beach; I think it was hedgehog, but the others claim it to be a shell. We weren't really sure what to do with it - but we felt there was some significance to it; so we performed a little ceremony, threw it into the sea and then walked off into the distance with Laura-Jane's new favourite song playing as our closing credits. Then we roly-polyed down hills, went and bought ice creams, went for a tour of the theatre and eventually played with our friends on stage whilst people watched. Is it any wonder I was sad yesterday?!?!
What do you think it is?
I would love to spend Christmas in Southsea at some point in my career. That doesn't seem an unreasonable request does it?!
We had fun on stage too. We did a routine called If I Were Not in Wonderland which would usually result in me having to retrieve a bouncy football from the audience. Most theatres don't have a permanent orchestra pit, so I didn't have too much trouble getting audiences to throw the ball back. However, in Southsea the ball must have ended up in the pit at least three times a show, which would result in me having to clamber over railings, between bannisters and swinging round poles in order to get it back. I don't know if there are many other dames that would be willing to do that!
But rather than me talk about how much fun we had why don't you see for yourself? This is the highlights video:
So, I've done Easter panto. The next thing to work on is Summer panto for Haven. I'm helping out with the production side of things this year too, so I'll have lots more interesting words for you soon!
In the mean time, as you walk into the sunset, make sure you play Laura-Jane Matthewson's new favourite song, courtesy of Jasette Amos.