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    BAZ BAMIGBOYE: Oh yes it is! Pantomimes are set for a West End return in time for this Christmas 

    BAZ BAMIGBOYE: Oh yes it is! Pantomimes are set for a West End return in time for this Christmas

    Showman Michael Harrison told me exclusively that, because we’re all ‘going to need a laugh at the end of the year’, he’s signed up a cavalcade of stars led by Julian Clary (pictured above as The Man in the Mirror in Snow White at the London Palladium)

    Panto will be back at the London Palladium in time for Christmas. Oh yes it will!

    Showman Michael Harrison told me exclusively that, because we’re all ‘going to need a laugh at the end of the year’, he’s signed up a cavalcade of stars led by Julian Clary; including special guest Beverley Knight, plus Ashley Banjo and Diversity, Paul Zerdin, Nigel Havers and Gary Wilmot. Young stars Charlie Stemp and Jac Yarrow will be there, too; mainly to serve as the butt of Clary’s ribaldry.

    Called Pantoland, the show will be a variety spectacular celebrating the art of the pantomime, with performances beginning at the Palladium from December 12 for a strictly limited, three-and-a-half week run until January 3.

    Harrison said it would have been impossible to present a traditional fairy-tale extravaganza, of the kind for which the Central London venue has become famous, because numbers are limited, on stage and off, thanks to the rules on self-distancing.

    Palladium owner Andrew Lloyd Webber has arranged for seats in the stalls and circle to be reconfigured, reducing the capacity from 2,200 to 1,200.

    Producer Harrison noted that LW Theatres ‘has made the Palladium safe, both front of house and backstage’, and that the cast and company will be tested, with one of the acts, Diversity, working as a bubble.

    Panto will be back at the London Palladium in time for Christmas. Oh yes it will! Julian Clary is picture above on stage with Nigel Havers. Clary has starred in four Palladium laugh-a-thons

    Panto will be back at the London Palladium in time for Christmas. Oh yes it will! Julian Clary is picture above on stage with Nigel Havers. Clary has starred in four Palladium laugh-a-thons

    Clary, who has starred in four Palladium laugh-a-thons, told me he needed ‘no persuading’ to participate. 

    ‘I’d have done the show in a room above a pub, because as much as it cheers everyone else up, it cheers us up as well,’ he said, of himself and the Palladium regulars.

    He added that having performed in 20 pantomimes since his Yuletide debut in Cinderella at Brighton, he would have felt ‘a bit lost’ if he’d had Christmas off. 

    Clary, who has starred in four Palladium laugh-a-thons, told me he needed 'no persuading' to participate

    Clary, who has starred in four Palladium laugh-a-thons, told me he needed ‘no persuading’ to participate

    ‘It fulfils a need in me,’ he said. ‘Panto is so silly — but so liberating as well, because anything can happen.’ Including ‘me, wafting around wearing ridiculous costumes, being rude to Nigel Havers’.

    We were seated (physically distanced, of course) in Harrison’s Covid-secure office suite off Drury Lane, where the pair had spent the day developing and finessing gags for Pantoland. 

    Though clearly still a work in progress, I wondered if there was one polished (and clean) enough to mention in this piece.

    ‘So far it’s a bit of a gift,’ Clary said of their efforts, noting: ‘There are jokes to be had from 1,200 people wearing masks.’

    Harrison agreed that the virus would certainly be on the agenda, ‘because we’re always topical’; though they would not be joking about death.

    So, give us somethin’ to larf about, I said.

    ‘Matt Hancock?’ Clary offered, as he looked up from his script.

    ‘Save that one,’ Harrison shot back. ‘No! Not the black hole one, either.’

    ‘What about the company Covid monitor?’ Clary asked. ‘I’m the company Covid monitor. Everyone has to report to me for testing. Do you want a…’ And I’m afraid we must stop there.

    Turning serious, Harrison warned: ‘This isn’t the fix. This can’t be the way forward. We can’t have the Government thinking: ‘Oh, they’re all right. The National Theatre’s putting something on; so are The Bridge and the Open Air.’ I’m sure audiences are going to love what we’re planning for Pantoland, but it’s for one year only. We want to return next year with a fairytale panto, as we know it.’

    Tickets on sale from 10am today, at palladiumpantomime.com

    Though clearly still a work in progress, I wondered if there was one polished (and clean) enough to mention in this piece. 'So far it's a bit of a gift,' Clary said of their efforts, noting: 'There are jokes to be had from 1,200 people wearing masks.' A London Palladium pantomime of Goldilocks and the Three Bears is seen above

    Though clearly still a work in progress, I wondered if there was one polished (and clean) enough to mention in this piece. ‘So far it’s a bit of a gift,’ Clary said of their efforts, noting: ‘There are jokes to be had from 1,200 people wearing masks.’ A London Palladium pantomime of Goldilocks and the Three Bears is seen above

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