Last night, at a press performance of the London Palladium pantomime Dick Whittington, Ventriloquist Paul Zerdin picked a man out of the audience and asked him to bring his wife up on stage. When the man stood up with his male partner, Paul told them to sit down as he needed a heterosexual couple. This made my blood boil and had I not be there to review the show in its entirety then I would have left immediately.
The heterosexual couple that were brought on stage were given false mouth masks to wear (Nina Conti style) which Paul then controlled the movement of so it looked like they were talking when really it was him. Now I understand he may have had only one male and one female mask on stage but I see no reason (in today’s society) why he couldn’t have a selection of masks, ready for any couple picked out.
I feel awful for the gay couple who stood up in front of 2,000 people, only to be told to sit down. I don’t believe it was intentionally homophobic on Paul’s behalf but it’s 2017 and we are in London. Situations like this should not be happening.
At the end of the show, Paul invited four children up on stage. Two boys and two girls. They all introduced themselves until the last boy who when Paul asked his name, before the boy had a chance to reply, said ‘Tracey’ and the audience laughed. Now I understand this may be amusing but I felt that was a risky joke to try as who knows what that little boy’s life is like. Perhaps he is bullied in the playground at school and called a girl. If that were the case then being called a girl on stage in front of 2,000 people would be an extension of his school bullying that could scar him for life. From personal experience at least, if that had been me on stage at eight years old being called Tracey and having the audience laugh, it would have been a horrific moment I would never forget.
I left the theatre shaken and feeling sick after what happened with the gay couple. I’m not calling Paul Zerdin homophobic but I do think he needs to move in to the twenty-first century and make his material relevant to the society we are living in and not alienate people. Christmas pantomime’s are supposed to be a joyous celebration and not one that leaves you with a bitter taste in your mouth like I have today.
Photo: Paul Coltas