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Archives for December 2008

Babes up in arms

Pauline McLean | 16:14 UK time, Tuesday, 23 December 2008

It may be the season of goodwill - but not if you're a particularly small panto goer.

A colleague - who went on a family outing to the panto at the Kings Theatre in Glasgow - was surprised to hear the theatre intended to charge £11 for his eight-week-old baby.

In an explanation which echoed the one given by many temporary venues at the 2006 Fringe, the theatre box office claimed it needed to ensure everyone in the audience had both a seat and a ticket, no matter how small they were, "for health and safety reasons".

A few well aimed protests at that event resulted in a fairer policy where babes in arms were given tickets but not charged for them.

When I raised the matter with the Kings Theatre press office, I was assured it was a minor slip up and that our man would have his baby's ticket refunded.

"Good thing too," he says, "as neither I nor the baby spent much time in either of our seats.

"I spent most of the show, pacing up and down with the baby in my arms."

Several weeks later and our man has heard nothing.

Squealing bundles

We've also heard of several more families who've been charged even more for their infants.

Could this be another downside of the new box office system which means callers are now referred to a London call centre which deals with booking of all theatres in the Ambassador group?

Or are they trying to ensure parents leave the noisiest members of the family at home? Surely not.

It's panto, for heaven's sake, and before long these small squealing bundles will be the audiences for eyewateringly priced stage shows like CBeebies and The Tiger Who Came to Tea and then they can sell them a seat.

As my colleague points out, his party spent the best part of £170 on panto tickets, and that was before the interval sweets and drinks.

It's surely not too much to ask for a free ticket for the tinies, particularly if they don't take up a seat in the first place.

Anyway, goodwill to all panto going babies, and indeed all readers of this blog.

Have a fabulously festive season - and see you all in 2009.

Alien war

Pauline McLean | 17:49 UK time, Friday, 5 December 2008

In space, they say, no-one can hear you scream.

The same is probably true of the labyrinth of basements beneath the Arches below Glasgow's Central Station.

It's there the team behind Alien War have set up their new show.

Inspired by the Alien films, the show is returning to Glasgow this week for a four-month run.

"It's definitely a creepy space," says Gary Gillies, who created the show in 1992 along with John Gorman.

"There's supposed to be a ghost of a little girl. No-one has seen her but there are some spots where you feel slightly strange."

And if that doesn't scare you off, the new show will.

Famously braved by Sigourney Weaver ( who screamed and giggled her way through the London spin off), shunned by Sylvester Stallone (whose restaurant was next door) and by Michael Jackson (who sent his bodyguards and they apparently warned him off), it's now back at the Arches for the first time since 1992.

The premise is that while refurbishing the venue, workmen uncovered a strange alien spacecraft.

Two burly marines are escorting us through the dimly lit corridors when it all goes horribly wrong.

The initial show was famous for ejecting screaming customers onto Argyle Street and for its fear factor.

"We've had people fainting - men and women - people trying to leave before it's even started and people who leave their children behind in their rush to escape," says Keith Gainham who played a marine in the first production and jumped at the chance to return this time.

"It's a very scary show but I think people like the adrenalin rush of it all."

Despite having Ripley's endorsement, the show's creators decided to cut ties with 20th Century Fox, who had endorsed the original show.

"We just felt it was like being handcuffed," says Gary Gillies.

"They didn't want us to include anything too scary in case someone had a heart attack and we really wanted to give audiences a more terrifying show.

"So we decided this time to do it ourselves."

And don't they worry about that possibility themselves?

"It's like a roller coaster,"says John Gorman.

"People love the adrenalin rush but they know they're strapped in, they can't get hurt.

"This is the same. And any publicity is good. Think of the ambulances parked outside the cinemas when they showed the Exorcist in 1973. people love all that sort of thing."

The team are expecting record interest - with tours of 12 taken through the set potentially every 10 minutes.

They'll also adjust the show for the audience.

"Late night audiences tend to be a little more raucous, a bit more lively. So we'll up the ante a bit," says Gary.

"We can spot the ones who are truly terrified and let them out as the tour progresses."

One major change since 1992 is that the Arches has been transformed into a proper venue, which means audiences are no longer thrown onto the street at the end of the tour.

Instead they'll end up in the bar, which should do a roaring trade in stiff drinks between now and the end of March.

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