The Clachan Calamities are a pantomime company celebrating their 18th anniversary this year with a production of David Swan’s Aladdin at Clachan Village Hall. Clachan lies about halfway to Campbeltown from the Grannary, so we’d not been to see the previous years’ productions while we had been in Argyll, but this year we had a friend who was acting the part of Wishy Washy, so a visit was a delightful obligation.
The cast was a proper village panto cast, with the singular exception of a female Dame, of whom more later. We chose to sit in the front row – always a dangerous thing to do on the Saturday night of a local panto – but I, for one, was very pleased with the view of the dancing girls from this position. When they were selling the raffle tickets I was told the price was “one pound for a strip” and, like the naughty man I am, I asked the girls how much the tickets were. All right, I was just getting in the mood.
The village hall at Clachan has no proper stage and the dressing rooms are behind the audience, so certain theatrical conventions were put aside. Also, this was far more of a revue than a panto, with the good music, dance ensemble introduction and some of the wildest, if not Wildean, ad libs I’ve heard for a long time.
Ah, back to the Dame. Traditionally, the dame is a saucy woman of a certain age, played by a man who plays vulgar but not camp. This dame was a real saucy woman of a certain age who, in the interests of her art, had left her teeth out for the night. Probably less that five feet tall, she came onto stage in one of the best dame costumes I;ve seen in a long time and had the audience in stitches without uttering a word in less than two seconds.
Aladdin was the best of the dancers, a young lady with not only great stage presence and great legs, but a very sassy lass who dealt with unruliness on the part of the rest of the cast with great aplomb and no little wit.
The show was a riot from start to finish, with the production highlight being the UV fluorescent “magic” scene in the cave, where Aladdin finds the lamp and awakes the genii – another stunning young actress in the most fantastic, glow-in-the-dark make-up. This scene is the excuse for the magic tricks – floating genii, slowly disappearing food and Aladdin’s own transformation into the prince.
Suitable victims were selected from the audience for ritual humiliation on stage, including a local high school teacher who was chosen to be executed but was saved from that awful fate by the princess’s merciful intervention.
The baddies and not-so-bad were played for full effect and clowning by Wishy Washy and the Peking Duck did their best to keep up with the wickedest and funniest Glasgow dame I’ve ever seen – I am totally converted to the Glaswegian style of dame, particularly in the hands of an exponent of this most fast-witted form of verbal dexterity.
The evening was three hours of some of the best entertainment I’ve ever had for only five quid, and we will certainly go back next year, and the year after and the year after that.