At this time of year, we should spare a thought for the panto characters. Once free to roam our stages each Christmas, they have been grounded ever since the doomy gloom cast its spell across the land. Now, they are cruelly confined to their dressing rooms, with not so much as a cheer or hiss to egg them on.
Thanks to the magic of Zoom, we can see some of them trapped in Perth theatre. There’s Helen Logan as Corrupta, an everyvillain ready to cause mayhem with her mirrors, poisoned apples and magic lamps. Trapped in a props store beneath the stage, she unmutes the audience so we can boo.
We do so with gusto.
Then there’s Christina Gordon as the fresh-faced Hero, a nervous adventurer leaving her tent to step into a forest of Christmas trees. She brandishes a pantometer designed to pick up the vibrations created by laughing audiences. For all her caution, she sets a bold example to Ewan Somers as the put-upon Duggie searching for his twin brother in a poor man’s version of Twelfth Night.
And let’s not forget Barrie Hunter as Heidi Hoall, an exuberant Dame in a violent yellow dressing gown. As she recalls her career as a theatre seamstress, she lets the abrasiveness slip to reveal a tender nostalgia for in-the-flesh panto.
Hunter, who writes and directs, has put together a tremendous show. Performed live, it builds from a welcome by a wide-eyed Ava Hickey as Our Spirited Guide to a series of backstage monologues and – big reveal! – to the stage itself. It’s rich in ribaldry, topicality and heart, not to mention technical skill.