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The International Writers Magazine
:Panto Time

The League of Gentlemen – ‘A Magical Pantomime Spectacular!’
Tour dates: 12th October – 14th December
Rebecca Kingsbury

The League of Gentlemen
have returned, not with a new series, but with a seasonal tour of the country. I caught the black comedy quartet at Portsmouth’s Guildhall. This year’s tour, The League of Gentlemen are behind you!, as you can tell by the title, has a pantomime theme for the Christmas holidays but is not a show that children should attend. The typical pantomime jeers aren’t so innocent with the audience shouting back at Steve Pemberton as Pauline "Oh no your f***ing not!"

The dark humour of the Gents’ three TV series is brought to the stage, with the characters weaved into the classic fairytales that materialize in theatres every December. Fans of the show will recognise the many familiar faces, all played extraordinarily by three of the writers/ actors Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith. Pauline and her sister Cathy Carter-Smith as the ugly sisters, Charlie and Stella (the rowing couple) playing the cow sold for magic beans, and Papa Lazarou as a disturbing Prince Charming holding a ball to find his last wife, are just a few examples of the warped tales to be told.
The pantomime theme comes complete with free gifts thrown from the stage (Pauline giving away her pens) and even a member of the audience being picked to go up on stage and help Dr.Chinnery relieve Daisy the cow’s dicky tummy.

I’ve seen the Gents before, four years ago, again at Portsmouth’s Guildhall. Both times I’ve been with a parent who had only seen glimpses of the show before, but they both enjoyed it, so much so that they were willing to see it again. This just goes to show that you don’t have to be an avid fan to like the Gent’s bizarre humour. However it does help! Any complete newcomer would be slightly scared by the die-hard enthusiasts dressed up as the nightmarish ring master Papa Lazarou as they took their seats. They may also take awhile to realize that the characters did not originally appear in a pantomime setting but in the fictional northern town of Royston Vasey.

As a fan of the Gents for many years, I have to admit I was a little disappointed. The sets were good, the characters and jokes as dark and amusing as before, but there was very little new material. Sure there were a few original lines to fit in with the fairy tale being told, but most of the sketches do derive from the TV series. This disappointment may come from the fact that I’ve seen them too many times, that I know the series’ too well, but it didn’t utterly spoil the experience for me. The Gents are still able to make me laugh along with hundreds of others who were sat in the Guildhall and all the other stops on the Gents’ tour bus.
This Christmas, if you haven’t already bought a ticket, or if you are fed up of pantomimes only appealing to children, go see this one and leave the kids with a babysitter. It’s worth the money and you get all the same features, but with an adult twist of the blackest comedy.
Tickets available at www.getmetickets.net

© Rebecca Kingsbury December 2005

Rebecca is a Creative Writing Major at the University of Portsmouth

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