Park Theatre Panto Dec21


Related Posts

Share This

Park Theatre Panto

Tis the season for men in tights and audience interaction. Panto can be a sure-fire box office winner for most theatres, but in a crowded market and as a new theatre, how do you make your production stand out? At Park Theatre, I met Jez Bond and Mark Cameron, two new kids on the panto block.

Jez Bond, artistic director of north London’s Park Theatre, and Park Artistic Associate Mark Cameron are in fine mood. Sitting in the auditorium of Park 200 as they rehearse for Park’s first panto, the pair’s friendship, shared history and artistic relationship is clear as they tumble through a series of private in-jokes, catchphrases and lines of script. They have co-written Park’s first panto, Sleeping Beauty, with Jez directing and Mark playing the Dame. In keeping with the spirit of fringe panto, this is no straight story and there are no star names in the cast; instead they’re putting on offer a ‘very different kind of show’.


The cast of Sleeping Beauty at Park Theatre

How long have you been working together?
JB We met about ten years ago at some comedy workshops – those workshops never really got anywhere but…we did.

MC Partly because the people at the workshops didn’t understand that you don’t just turn up and get the glory of the laughter without lots and lots of hard work. So a work ethic bonded us

JB A few years ago we worked together on a production of Sleeping Beauty at Salisbury Playhouse which was not a script that we wrote but one that we were handed and did a fair amount of work to tweak it, but it really made us think wow what if we had a blank slate and did it all exactly how we wanted to do it from the beginning. And that’s why we wanted to do Sleeping Beauty now because it’s a story we know really well, but we’re telling it in a completely different way, it’s utterly different to anything you would imagine when you come to see this.

It’s a family show in the sense that you would watch a Disney film together or that you would watch any clever cartoon; it’s got different complex layers and it’s for everyone. It will look and sound beautiful, it’s got all original music. It’s written like a bonkers farce, mistaken identities, all sorts of nuts things going on. None of the very base things that you get in some pantomimes – there is no actor saying a line just to move a plot point on, it’s got a proper script darling!

MC This is the first full length script we’ve written together. We did a sketch comedy show for internet show called too big to play and that had about 110 sketches in it that we wrote together with another guy and we filmed all those. And I’ve just started writing sitcoms with someone else, but we’re planning to write a panto together for the next few years.

JB And this first show has had interest from NY and Dubai already.

Mark Cameron (left) with Jez Bond and the safety flannel prop from their show

Mark Cameron (left) with Jez Bond and the safety flannel prop from their show


Panto is a pretty crowded market…
JB As a new venue, it’s going to be difficult because we don’t have a Park theatre audience that have been going 30 years, we have to build that audience. So like any show we do, we have to work hard to sell it, but all our shows have been selling well, we’ve had great press reviews for all our work which is wonderful. So we’re hoping that the good reviews here will make it pick up. And word of mouth is really key too, so we want to try and get people to see it as early as possible as it’s running til the 19th of Jan, so it’s quite a long run.

So what’s your new spin on Sleeping Beauty?
JB It begins on the 18th birthday of the princess. In another land next door we find a young prince who’s grown up into a fine young King – and keen quilter. And one of the key things about our story is that he falls in love with her but he’s so shy and inexperienced that he’s afraid to be himself so he adopts a persona of ‘the professor’ – who she then falls in love with. But of course she’s in love with the persona and not the real him… so he has to come out and be himself. And all of this is a big sub plot underneath the whole usual Sleeping Beauty story. There is of course a big message about ‘hey kids just be yourself, we love you as you are’.

MC Good does triumph, but not in the way that you’d expect. We set this in the Land of Waaaaa (he holds the note for quite a while…) within which there are two kingdoms – Pilli Pots and Babuus. Methuen are publishing the script and we’ve created a whole raft of foot notes because we introducing a whole new language. It’s a great boost for us to have them publish this – they’re going out on a limb, pantos don’t normally get published, but they read the script and loved it.

The long-term is that next year and for the next five or six years, we’re going to do the whole cannon of traditional pantomimes and they’re all going to be set in different parts this world that we’ve created and they’re going to overlap. So eventually, somewhere like year eight, there will be a pantomime that has every character from traditional panto and they’ll all meet.

See trailer for Sleeping Beauty

JB Shall we teach you how to say the cat sat on the mat in Pilli Potsian?

YK Sure…

At this point they both bound up on stage and start explaining the intricacies of Pilli Potsian – in which they recite phrases including “the rabbit jumped over the fence”. Which of course the audience will be expected to join in with in the show. They ask me a question and want me to respond in Pilli Potsian.

MC Just make up some words.

I oblige

MC “You’re a natural. You’ve got a PhD in Pilli Potsian!”

The language, the footnotes, the noises; the pair’s Tolkien, Pratchett and Python influences are apparent.

JB Other people have pointed some of those references out, which are great, but we haven’t knowingly picked up influences, just whatever’s in our heads.

Give me your sales pitch then
MC It’s all original, there aren’t any stars in it, it’s all hard-working actors. Original music, original story…and a dog!

JB When you go to the kind of pantos in which there are people who’ve, say, been in a particular soap, then certain liberties will be taken with the script to get those sorts of jokes or references in, and that’s absolutely fine, but it’s not something we want to do. This is a new theatre with a new angle on hopefully lots of different things and this always had to be a totally new take on things.

Sleeping Beaty is on at the Park Theatre now until Jan 19th