ShortBookandScribes #BlogTour #GuestPost by Martin Gore, Author of The Road to Cromer Pier @AuthorGore @rararesources
I’m so pleased to welcome Martin Gore to my blog today to talk about The Road to Cromer Pier and how pantomime writing is easy! My thanks to Rachel Gilbey from Rachel’s Random Resources for the place on the tour.
Janet’s first love arrives out of the blue after forty years. Those were simpler times for them both. Sunny childhood beach holidays, fish and chips and big copper pennies clunking into one armed bandits.
The Wells family has run the Cromer Pier Summertime Special Show for generations. But it’s now 2009 and the recession is biting hard. Owner Janet Wells and daughter Karen are facing an uncertain future. The show must go on, and Janet gambles on a fading talent show star. But both the star and the other cast members have their demons. This is a story of love, loyalty and luvvies. The road to Cromer Pier might be the end of their careers, or it might just be a new beginning.
Pantomime writing is easy! by Martin Gore
Well relatively speaking it is……
My creative journey pretty much started when the opportunity came to write a pantomime for my home group, The Walkington Pantomime Players. I’ve now written eight, with a ninth, Camelot, in the works.
The virtue of pantomime writing is that the plot is available to you on google. There is a wealth of information as to what happens, and when, in any panto you care to choose. You can look at any number of them on Youtube as well.
I tend to start with a blank page with eight boxes. Two acts of four scenes each is a start point. From your google research write into each box the plot lines for each scene. Then you add the funny bits. I draw heavily on my love of TV comedy, like Blackadder, Morecambe and Wise, Two Ronnies, Yes Minister, Allo Allo etc. It’s surprising how well such humour fits with panto.
Remember that humour comes in many forms. I love rhyming words within the text, as the punch line suggests a rude word but you change it to a less obvious one, as in:
‘My dear you are so beautiful where ere the twilight flickers, I’d like to kiss you tenderly and get inside your…. three bedroom detached in Basildon’
Equally humour can be visual. Kids particularly get visual humour. I remember getting two villains dressed up as wild animals, and they simply ran to the front of the stage and shouted ‘roar’. The kids loved it every night.
I claim to have foreseen Gordon Brown’s electoral demise when a gag about him flopped six performances running. Beware political humour….
I love Beauty and the Beast, and always wanted to write it as a pantomime, but in reality there isn’t many laughs to be had in it is there? But if the French village seemed very similar to that in ‘Ello Ello? Complete with Cafe Renoir? Problem solved.
But pantos are so much more than dialogue. Staging, lighting, costumes, and sound all play a part. It’s good to start with a rousing show tune if you can, to get the audience in the mood. If you have a soloist with a great voice then play to it, but if not chorus numbers work well too. It’s worth incorporating any crazes kids are into at the time, so your show is up to date. Baby shark? Flossing? Be contemporary wherever you can. Get some friends around and use Spotify / Alexa to brainstorm songs, with a wine accompaniment of course.
You need to think about staging too. In a version of Aladdin NOT written by me the author included a magic carpet scene. When asked by the Director how this scene might be delivered the author advised rather unhelpfully ‘I write it, you direct it dear boy…..’
If you are doing Cinderella you might want to consider whether your hardboard fairy coach resplendent with tons of glitter will actually be able to exit through the stage door? Or how twenty five people will get on stage for the curtain call?
Costumes are very important too. If Cinderella changes from her day clothes to a fantastic ball gown it might be good if there was enough of a gap in her appearances on stage for her to change with some degree of privacy?
Lighting too is a great asset. Closing curtains to do scene changes is okay if you have them, but fading to black is fine and tends to speed up changes. You can simulate most things with sound and light in tandem. A lighting flash with the sound of thunder creates a instant thunder storm. A bright light with birds tweeting can be an English country garden scene. Much is possible through these media.
So you gradually fill these eight boxes with all of these ingredients, superimposed on the plot you that you have already entered. At times you will have no ideas at all. Fear not. When you are watching some random TV programme inspiration will come, and you’ll scribble something in. Go watch a show or two for inspiration.
Your eight boxes will fill with ideas. Some you will discard, but as you do other ideas will enter your head. Remember that as a default you are simply re-telling a fairy tale that is tried and tested. What could possibly go wrong?
Sometimes something will occur to you in a blinding flash of brilliance. I was looking for a song for the laundry scene in Aladdin, driving along the M62 from Hull to Leeds one early winter’s morning. Suddenly George Formby’s When I’m Cleaning Windows popped into my head from nowhere. But instead of ‘when I’m cleaning windows’ think ‘Wishee Washee Laundry’. I wrote a full three verses in my head in fifteen miles, and scribbled down the words when I reached the office.
My particular favourite line was:
‘We do knickers, we do socks, we even do your rancid jocks’.
A sad footnote to the story was that I subsequently got a speeding ticket for doing thirty-seven in a thirty limit contraflow….. Oh well…
Once you have filled your eight boxes then, and only then, do you write up the dialogue. You do need to know how many parts you need, what sexes they might be, and the age range. A great demerit of ‘off the shelf’ scripts is that they have no regard for local casting needs, and can actually go out of date so quickly. A joke that worked six month’s ago might not work now.
Try to generate sufficient decent sized parts rather than a few huge roles, because it keeps the cast interest up. Turning up for a rehearsal when you’re only in one scene is dead boring. Pay particular attention to how you will engage youngsters. Amdram is too often full of older people, but with encouragement teenagers love it once they’ve tried it. Our Sound Engineer, newly recruited in 2018, was fourteen. He did brilliantly.
You will probably find, because as a new writer I did, that once you have the frame of eight boxes filled, writing up the dialogue isn’t that difficult, and that as you write it up new ideas pop into your head. Surprisingly quickly you will have something which isn’t half bad.
If having written it you want to get a second opinion on your work then you will find that people will be flattered to be asked to help. Having a script reading makes a brilliant excuse for a social event. Just be careful that the evening does not deteriorate into serious wine tasting however!
I always love the first reading with the group as a whole, just read in a circle, line by line. The laughs for the freshly read script are amazing, only topped by those received from paying audiences. Making people laugh has to be one of the best feelings of my life, and remember that a good cast will make a good script great. A certain mode of delivery, an ad lib here, a slight tweak there, and what you didn’t write at all becomes yours for all time, courtesy of a great actor.
If you’ve thought about trying to write a panto yourself then why not give it a try? It isn’t easy but it’s not as scary as you think, and it is very rewarding. Take a look at www.martingore.co.uk for inspiration. If your group would like me to write one for them I’m happy to. All I ask is that if you make money you make a donation to my hospital charity http://wishhcharity.org.uk Oh and let me have a couple of tickets to see it performed!
Best of luck!
This is fabulous, thank you Martin. I’m sure it’s not quite as easy as you make it sound though.
I am a 61 year old Accountant who semi-retired to explore my love of creative writing. In my career I held Board level jobs for over twenty five years, in private, public and third sector organisations. I was born in Coventry, a city then dominated by the car industry and high volume manufacturing. Jaguar, Triumph, Talbot, Rolls Royce, Courtaulds, Massey Ferguson were the major employers, to name but a few.
When I was nine years old I told my long suffering mother that as I liked English composition and drama I was going to be a Playwright. She told me that I should work hard at school and get a proper job. She was right of course.
I started as an Office Junior at Jaguar in 1973 at eleven pounds sixty four a week. I thus grew up in the strike torn, class divided seventies. My first career ended in 2015, when I semi retired as Director of Corporate services at Humberside Probation. My second career, as a Non Executive Director, is great as it has allowed me free time to travel and indulge my passion for writing, both in novels and for theatre.
The opportunity to rekindle my interest in writing came in 2009, when I wrote my first pantomime, Cinderella, for my home group, the Walkington Pantomime Players. I have now written eight. I love theatre, particularly musical theatre, and completed the Hull Truck Theatre Playwrite course in 2010. My first play, a comedy called He’s Behind You, had its first highly successful showing in January 2016, so I intend to move forward in all three creative areas.
Pen Pals was my first novel, but a second, The Road to Cromer Pier, will be released in the Summer of 2019.
I’m an old fashioned writer I guess. I want you to laugh and to cry. I want you to believe in my characters, and feel that my stories have a beginning, a middle, and a satisfactory ending.