LARA CROFT GEARS
UP FOR PANTO
Copyright 2001 www.tombraiderchronicles.com
[ November 25th 2001 ]
over a week, the curtain will rise on one of Scotland's
top pantomimes - Babes In The Wood. A star-studded
cast, led by Elaine C Smith, is set to tread the
boards of Glasgow's King's Theatre in more than
70 performances in five weeks.
first did panto five years ago. Now she is back
after a two-year break and feeling right at home
as Aunt Polly. She'll wear eight costumes, all
specially made for her. In just two of them, she
plans to do a unique version of Britney Spears'
hit, Baby One More Time, and she'll appear as
Lara Croft, complete with flashing belly-button.
"That'll keep the band awake at least,"she says.
aside, Elaine revealed that it was her mother's
serious illness which persuaded her to get back
up on the panto stage. She said: "My daughters
dragged me to the King's last year to see Cinderella.
My mother had breast cancer at the time, and it
was the last thing I felt like doing. But I actually
laughed out loud. I thought: 'This is what it's
all about, uplifting people.'"
breaking, Elaine, 42, went on: "It was a very
difficult time and the last thing on Earth I felt
like doing was going to a pantomime, let alone
starring in one. It's not much fun seeing your
mum with an oxygen mask on. "Honestly, the trip
to the King's was almost therapeutic. For two
and a half hours, I was able to relax and, if
not forget my troubles, certainly take my mind
off them. It was sheer escapism." Her mum, Stella,
has now been given the all-clear and Elaine is
delighted to be back in pantoland.
it's hard going, balancing day-long rehearsals
followed by twice-daily panto and being a wife
to Bob Morton and mum to Katie, 12, and Hannah,
six. She says: "It's a lot of work. When I was
approached earlier this year, I had to sit them
all down and ask if they minded. They're sacrificing
their mother over the entire Christmas period.
I'll be rushing around John Lewis on Christmas
Eve with fire coming out of my backside. They
were great about it, though Katie is a bit embarrassed
about the Britney Spears sketch. She just said:
chat show host and Rab C Nesbitt's beloved Mary
Doll, loves panto and all it means to Scottish
people. She said: "It makes me mad when people
say it's dead. Nothing could be further from the
truth. "Yes, I am Scotland's top female star at
the moment and yes, we have the cream of directors
and producers. But why not? I think the people
of Glasgow deserve the best."
just a week to go, the cast will have to work
extra hard in rehearsals at Glasgow's Woodside
Halls to deliver Elaine's promise. Elaine, Casualty
heart-throb Ronnie McCann and Chewin' The Fat
boys Paul Riley and Mark Cox are rehearsing in
the sort of place more used to seeing tea dances
and weddings. Rehearsals started just six days
ago, giving the cast a frantic fortnight to get
their act together. "Right now we're at the organised
chaos stage," said Elaine.
winter morning was somehow transformed by a group
of actors who wouldn't look out of place in your
local supermarket - oh no they wouldn't!
West End director Nigel West tried to stage-manage
a custard pie sketch, Elaine couldn't help but
put him straight. She was scripted to land a pie
on one of the two baddies and then stand still.
She said: "Well I'm sorry, but I think I should
be slapping the pie and running. It's instinct
to run, certainly in my experience of custard
pie-ing that's how it works. You wouldn't just
stand there. I've only once in my life thrown
a drink over somebody - long story but a good
one. I certainly legged it then. There's no point
in slapstick unless it's done properly."
of course, she won, muttering something about
teaching grannies and sucking eggs - she is, after
all, Scotland's panto queen. Humour was everywhere,
though. It was as if Elaine and her cohorts just
couldn't help themselves. At one stage, the former
school teacher recounted a particularly fruity
tale which had the group in stitches. "I can't
believe I've just told you that. And without a
drink as well," she said.
script is peppered with bread jokes like "What
kind of shoes are those - loafers?" and "My entire
loaf passed before my eyes." Son Wesley McCann
is referred to as "Mother's Pride". But her show-stopper
is certain to be a rendition of Robbie William's
chart topper, Rock DJ, an idea Elaine herself
said: "I was never a huge Robbie fan, but I took
my daughter to see him in concert at Hampden and
he blew the roof off. I just thought this was
a song we could adapt." Her nervous understudy
was the only one in the room not swept up by her
infectious laughter. "If she's sick or anything,
it's those shoes I've got to fill," whispered
actress Beth Marshall, from Glasgow. "Can you
imagine? They'll be throwing sweeties at me, shouting:
'Get off, we want Elaine.'" Sorry Beth, but who
could blame them? The woman could make a funeral
procession laugh and that's no joke. Gags aside,
Elaine knows there is a serious job of work to
opening night on December 6, they'll perform twice
a day most days right through the festive period,
in front of 1785 fans at a time. Elaine does not
mind the hours. It's the show that counts. And,
by the looks of things, that's exactly what the
paying customers are going to get. "We all remember
the panto outings of our youth," she says. "Our
children should be able to do the same."
from rehearsals, the kids lucky enough to see
the show will remember Aunt Polly for a long,