Biggins slams attempts to tone down panto
Panto veteran Christopher Biggins has told Sky News calls to tone down panto innuendo are “ridiculous” after a sketch in Dick Whittington was cut from the London Palladium production.
Qdos Pantomimes has removed part of its Palladium production involving a male character looking up a female performer’s skirt following the sexual abuse allegations surrounding Harvey Weinstein.
Also, earlier this month, one mum called for Manchester’s Dick Whittington to be axed for being “lewd and offensive”.
Panto veteran Christopher Biggins – who is starring as Widow Twankey in Aladdin in Richmond – says the calls to tone down the traditional Christmas shows have gone too far.
He said: “The whole thing is ridiculous and is getting out of hand. In a way I’m pleased I’m nearing the end of my pantomime career.
“I’m 69, I’ll be 70 next year, hopefully I’ll do one more pantomime and then I’ll retire from pantomime because it’s a joke, you soon won’t be able to do anything anywhere.
“Innuendo is fantastic and is wonderful and is joyous for the parents and the children,” he added.
Across the country kids buzzing with sugary sweets are watching their favourite panto and for the adults there’s no shortage of double entendres.
But in a year where sexual harassment in the entertainment industry has come into the spotlight, panto producers are wary.
Michael Harrison, managing director of Qdos Pantomimes, told the Daily Telegraph he felt it would have been wrong to have someone looking up a skirt.
He said: “I have cut that. Last Christmas it was in nearly every panto in the land, including the Palladium, but this year it just feels wrong.
“What I have not done and what I won’t do is change any jokes, as I don’t believe there is a link between sexual harassment and pantomime. Nobody touches anybody in pantomime. And as far as somewhere like the Palladium goes, of course the show is full of innuendo because we are working with Julian Clary.”
For those watching the Christmas Eve matinee performance at the Palladium, rude jokes weren’t a concern.
“I find them very, very rude and I’m enjoying every single minute of it,” said one woman.
Another added: “Really naughty! Fabulous! It’s great… I don’t think the youngsters will get half of the jokes to be honest, but it’s great.”
Editor of What’s On Stage, Theo Bosanquet, says striking the right tone is a difficult balancing act for panto producers.
He said: “Pantomime is in essence a family entertainment, but of course it’s one that comes with a lot of quite bawdy traditions so I think any producer has to weigh up whether the jokes they’re including cross a line that might make some parents uncomfortable.
“I think it’s always a tricky balancing act when it comes to pantomime, nobody wants to clean it up completely, but I think on occasion the jokes can go that little bit too far, push the envelope, and that unfortunately does make some parents particularly feel uncomfortable,” he added.