Meet our panel: We have given our panellists pen-names but their biographies reflect their real career details…
Hari Bairn is in his 20s and since graduating from drama school has worked in the West End, Off-West End and on a number of tours
Dicky Benfield is in his 40s and has worked in the West End, at the NT, the Globe, and in theatres around the country, as well as regular TV appearances
Ros Clifford, 30, is currently a deputy stage manager, she has worked extensively in London and regional theatre for nine years
Charlotte Osmand is in her 30s and has worked as a stage manager on and off the book in venues across the UK, as well as in event management
Albert Parker is in his 60s and has appeared as a regular in soaps, two BAFTA-winning sitcoms, theatre and TV
John Pepper is 31 and for the past 10 years has worked as an actor in regional theatres, the National and in radio, television and film
Beryl Phoenix is in her 40s. She has played leading roles at the RSC, worked on new plays, and toured both nationally and internationally
Peter Quince is in his 70s and is an actor working in theatre and television
Jenny Talbot is 39 and has nearly 20 years of experience in West End and touring musical theatre with occasional forays into TV and film
Annie Walker is 25. Since graduating from drama school, she has worked predominantly in regional theatres and is also a writer and street performer
Charlotte For something that’s gone wrong, it has always involved wigs!
Beryl I love a good wig disaster.
Peter Deliberately funny?
Annie The first time I saw Noises Off, I was on a high for about three months. I thought it was the best play ever written.
Jenny It is! The funniest night I ever had at the theatre was either watching Noises Off or Boeing Boeing.
‘Crap gags in panto are a favourite. A really good dame can be devastatingly funny’
John I love panto, love it. Crap gags are a favourite. A really good dame can be devastatingly funny.
Beryl Trad panto done well cannot be beaten.
John Yeah, trad panto, none of this new-fangled nonsense.
Peter One Man, Two Guvnors almost had me falling out of my seat.
Albert I’m going with Boeing Boeing, and in particular Michelle Gomez as Judith the German air hostess. I thought I was going to wee myself.
Dicky An actor coming on stage dressed as a scraggy schoolboy in Nicholas Nickleby when she should have been Mrs Nickleby in mourning dress…
Hari I think all the Mischief Theatre’s Play That Goes Wrong stuff is absolutely hilarious.
Albert I thought I’d hate The Play That Goes Wrong – one gag all evening – but I loved it. But going back to see their other shows, I am getting a bit tired of the gag now.
Jenny I like a good Coward comedy when it’s done well. The truth and honesty make it funny.
Ros There was also a pigeon incident on stage at the final performance of the original production of Nell Gwynn at Shakespeare’s Globe – one of the actor’s reactions had me doubled over. Stopped the show for a good five minutes.
Jenny I think they pay the pigeon at the Globe. Chuck ’em on when a show is sinking…
Jon Noises Off is a popular answer! Me too. I saw a student production when I was at university and there’s one bit of business I’ll never forget. In the second backstage act, Belinda was trying to sort everything out when she heard her cue and had to go on stage. But there was a scaff bar in the way and she commando-rolled under it, before immediately getting back on her feet and going on in one smooth move. And that’s not author Michael Frayn, that was the student actor and director.
Peter I was in a panto where the Fairy Godmother had to fly across the stage. The flying didn’t work. She swung back and forth until she ended up just dangling sadly.
Albert I would hate to play to an audience of me. I don’t laugh out loud. I smile loudly. If I do actually laugh, then I know something really has hit the mark.
Beryl I once was witness to many moustaches travelling all over men’s faces, various bits of fake facial hair that couldn’t quite withstand the facial contortions while they all tried not to corpse.
Jon My biggest ever corpse was unfortunately at the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond, where there is nowhere to hide.
Charlotte In the most recent panto I did, one of the cast always brought on a different object into the market scene – some of those had me in stitches… not too easy to call a show when you are crying laughing.
Albert I do remember as a drama student in the 1970s going to a Saturday matinee of Trevor Nunn’s musical version of The Comedy of Errors. That was magical and very funny. Judi Dench did one piece of business as Adriana that I just couldn’t wait to steal when I directed it about 20 years later.
Jon When I was 18, our school took us to see the RSC in Much Ado About Nothing. Roger Allam was Benedick and was smoking a cigar before his eavesdropping scene. Then he hid in a tree. When Don Pedro said Beatrice loved him, a perfect smoke ring came out of the tree.
John Gerard Kelly as the narrator in The Rocky Horror Show tour was fantastically funny.
Jon I saw Kelly in panto several times at King’s Theatre, Glasgow. Hilarious and pure class.
Annie One of the funniest things to happen to me was while ad-libbing Restoration comedy on the London Old Vic stage; I had the perfect view of the actor who was supposed to interrupt me three lines ago as he came galloping from backstage and entered after I started spouting absolute nonsense. I’d like to think no one could tell anything went wrong.
Peter When Donald Sinden played Malvolio, he came into a garden with a sundial. He looked at the sundial, checked his watch, and corrected the sundial.
Jon I love business like that. Like the old ‘take off an earring to answer the phone, hold the phone to the other ear’ gag.
Charlotte I watched Barber Shop Chronicles the other week. While it’s not the funniest show I’ve ever seen (I don’t think it’s supposed to be), there was a moment when one of the cast corpsed – at this moment in time to see that genuine laugh and the delight on the cast members’ faces made us laugh. PS, if you haven’t seen it, it’s brilliant.
Annie It has to be done right. I have to say I saw a West End show and the cast members were so loving laughing at all their in-jokes, it just wasn’t funny.