TIP ONE: WRITE YOUR OWN
Only you know your club’s strengths, male-female ratio, technical limitations, audience, etc. But writing is slow and not for everyone (but you could buy my book on how to do it of course! Also has a lot more help on how to choose a script! Available from Amazon!)
TIP TWO: STICK TO THE CLASSICS (Cinderella etc)
Nobody wants to see “The Hunchback of Notre Dame panto” (no, I didn’t make it up) or one about Dracula. Audiences want the familiar (and modern kids need to hear these great stories)
TIP THREE: AVOID SCRIPTS THAT ARE NOT FUNNY.
You would think this was pretty obvious, but plainly it’s not. Don’t just choose a ‘title’ then say: ‘That’ll do’.
To be blunt most Internet pantos are ancient rubbish. They’re just not funny, they have far too much talking (pages and pages of people explaining who they are and what their son ‘Jack’ is like and what they are going to do – all without a gag in sight), and they rely on local audiences laughing at seeing “Old Tom from up the road” with a wig on. YOU CAN’T GET AWAY WITH THAT TODAY!
HINT: Print out some pages – if you cannot highlight or underline at least 3 amusing bits of action or jokes that make you grin on every full page then bin it. And I mean genuine humour for all ages, plus visual humour and slapstick – but not stand-up comedian ‘jokes’: ‘My wife’s so fat …’ etc. No ‘business’ at all (physical comedy including slapstick)? Bin it.
TIP FOUR: AVOID A WEBSITE THAT SHOWS EVIDENCE OF A LAZY WRITER
No effort made to correct the spelling or make their website clear and easy and modern. Can’t even spell ”PANTOS’ (writes PANTO ’ S).
TIP FIVE: AVOID WRITERS WHO THINK IT IS FUNNY TO MOCK PEOPLE WHO ARE DIFFERENT
The villains in your panto can be horrible about people – that’s what makes them baddies (see Flip Flop in my own Robin Hood being nasty to a one-legged old man) – but the author cannot.
For example: on the Internet I found this: a character called “The Genie of the LUMP” (a hunchback) who comes out of the lamp solely to make these hysterical jokes: “I had a hunch you would say that” and the ever-popular “Don’t get the hump” (not even funny about a camel – but still used endlessly in countless old pantos). Sad. AVOID!
Within 10 minutes of searching you will also find at least 3 stereotyped ‘camp’ men among Robin Hood’s ‘Merry Men’ (usually Will Scarlet – or “Will Pink” as “scarlet is so yesterday’s fashion“). And who on earth thinks they can put black makeup on and be inarticulate, spear-waving cannibals chasing Robinson Crusoe, or thickly-accented Arabs easily beaten by Ali Baba?! Don’t even read them.
Just lazy, old-fashioned writing. AVOID.
PS: Don’t pay lots! It doesn’t ensure quality by any means! Watch out for hidden ‘extras’. For example (in 2013 so may have changed):
My script against well-known publishers and writers:
cost to buy each printed script = £6+ Mine = £0
cost for each performance = £35 to £96 Mine = £25
video rights =£40+ Mine = £0
TOTAL cost of 10 shows with just 10 actors £450 to £1,060
Mine = £250
Your show to raise money for a registered charity: FREE