Matt Buttell

“He’s behind you!” etc. etc.

Panto Season: it really doesn’t get any gayer.

Here’s the facts, there are men dressed as women, there are women dressed as men, and there’s an abundance of fairies and camp in-your-face sidekicks. And let’s not even talk about what could be going on inside that pantomime horse costume.

But for all their frivolity, pantos have something of a bad rep: as if starring in them is only for has-beens and those whose careers have seen better days. And while we’re not saying this isn’t strictly untrue, there are those who’ve made quite a career out of the good old pantomime.

For instance, pre I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here, pantos were practically *all* Christopher Biggins did. And post, come to think of it. And there’s our point again: Biggins. See, pantos are definitely gay.

There’s even such a thing as Panto Factor on YouTube. An unashamed rip-off The X Factor, this is gloriously camp, even if its only real similarity with the Saturday night behemoth is that it’s got its own Cheryl as a judge.

It’s just that it’s Cheryl Baker, not Cole. We are agog.

There’s just something about panto-land that attracts the campest names in entertainment. And for that, we’re thrilled. Here’s four of this year’s best:

Dick Whittington at the Birmingham Hippodrome
Flamboyant, fabulous and definitely camp, it’s none other than Joan Collins starring as the evil Queen Rat. Not quite the kind of title super-bitch Alexis Colby was gunning for, but it’ll do…

Dick Whittington at the Bristol Hippodrome
Oh look, it’s Barbara Windsor as Fairy Bowbells. That’s Barbara Windsor. As a fairy. There was talk of Babs and Joan starring in the same production of Dick Whittington, but with such campness on stage at once it was feared the universe would implode.

Aladdin at The Mayflower, Southampton
It’s only ruddy Paul O’Grady isn’t it? Well technically, no, it isn’t; he’s actually giving Lily Savage one last outing by playing Widow Twankey – the queen of all Dames – alongside ex-S Clubber Jon Lee’s Aladdin. Lily Savage?! Amaze.

Peter Pan at the New Wimbledon Theatre, London
Super-camp Louis Spence is so perfect for panto he could well be the new king of the season. Or queen. Hard to believe he’s never done one before, isn’t it? Though we suspect he shall “have to do it again then, shan’t he?” See what we did there?

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