David Lister: Prince Charming turns panto villain

Share
Related Topics

There was a story reported this week which must surely make a footnote in theatrical history.

It concerned the treatment meted out to the actor playing Prince Charming in Cinderella and how he was booed by the audience. Twenty-five-year-old Owen Woodgate who is appearing at the Marina Theatre in Lowestoft, Suffolk, had somewhat injudiciously given his opinions of the town on Twitter. In a tweet that must have ruined his agent's breakfast, he wrote: "Shit hole of a town. Everyone is pregnant. No Starbucks. Hoodies dominate the street. Poo."

He later, more judiciously, changed his mind and posted a new message, saying: "First impressions of the town were way off the mark. Having a fantastic time, met some great people... and everyone has been very welcoming."

It's funny how Lowestoft can grow on people. But unfortunately for Mr Woodgate the local newspaper had reported his earlier opinions, and pregnant and non-pregnant members of the audience combined to boo.

There are conclusions to be drawn about the cavalier use of Twitter, of course. There are studies to be made of the apparently high fertility rates in Lowestoft. And the owners of Starbucks will be delighted to see that where once there were complaints that they could spoil the traditional English high street, now it is a cause for complaint if the high street does not have one. Indeed, for all its brevity, Mr Woodgate's tweet could be the basis for a sociology seminar.

But I am more interested in the artistic implications of this episode. The booing of Prince Charming is unsettling. Generally it is pantomime villains who are booed. To boo the dashing fairy-tale prince, whose very name is a pretty clear hint to the audience on how to react, must be a rare occurrence in pantomime history. How did it alter the dynamics of the performance? Did Cinderella throw the glass slipper in Prince Charming's face and scream: "Go and pour your grande latte into that!" Once the audience had shattered the illusion, the players might as well all have come out of character to defend the honour of Lowestoft.

As the whole town seems by this stage to have been in the know, the rest of the cast should have arranged some surprises for Mr Woodgate. Cinderella could have entered pregnant for her final scene and told him: "Didn't you know I'm from Lowestoft?" The fairy godmother could have been a hoodie for the night.

None of that would have been that far removed from the spirit of pantomime, leaning as the art form always does on current events. In a strange way, booing Prince Charming is worse. That small act of revenge blurred all distinction between actor and character. Often in pantomime the distinction is blurred between the character in the panto and the TV character of the actor in question, and the catchphrase of one is lent to the other. But it's less common to see a blurring of the character and the personality and actions of the actor in real life.

What did the small children in the audience make of the handsome, heroic fairy-tale prince getting abuse from the stalls? They will probably have bad dreams and grow up confused. They might even become hoodies.

Watch the master at work

Kenneth Branagh's career has been largely concentrated on stage and the big screen. But what a magnificent TV actor he is. That much is certain from his Sunday night performances in Wallander, and it's the reason that I shall be sure not to miss the programme on BBC1 tomorrow night.

In his portrayal of the moody Swedish detective, Branagh catches with great poignancy a man at that moment in his life when difficulties with job, friendship, love life, an ailing parent and a daughter needing help with big decisions all converge on an already existential angst. There is no fire or overt emotion in him, yet somehow he conveys that his struggle to make sense of the world gets no easier as he gets older. It's masterful acting, and, for all his many triumphs in theatre and cinema, this is the role that will, I suspect, become the one that he will be best remembered for.

So who's been taking the Michael?

If there were an award for the thinnest person ever to appear on the West End stage it would go to Keira Knightley. Certainly her weight or lack of it in her stage debut in Molière's The Misanthrope seemed to take up most of the interval conversation around me when I caught up with the production this week.

Knightley's stage debut, playing an empty-headed film star, is a creditable and convincing one in a hugely enjoyable modern adaptation scripted by Martin Crimp. I was particularly intrigued by the character of the critic, a smarmy, narcissistic creep whom Crimp calls Covington. Knightley's character describes him as a "dead white male" who will "admire any young woman who takes her clothes off in front of the camera".

As several reviewers have pointed out, the name Covington seems to be an amalgam of two esteemed newspaper theatre critics, Michaels Coveney and Billington. It's a tricky one for them. Do they sue? Or do they take the allusion to hot bloodedness as a compliment?

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Dom Joly owns a pig. That thinks it's a dog.  

I'll bow out. Let Wilbur, the pig that thinks it's a dog, bring home the bacon

Dom Joly
 

Forget charging by the page - with books, heart matters more than heft

Katy Guest
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'