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Producer of UK’s biggest pantomimes scraps traditional routine in wake of harassment scandal

Julian Clary and Nigel Havers in the 2016 production of Cinderella at the London Palladium. Producer Michael Harrison says a routine that was included in the show has now been cut. Photo: Paul Coltas/Steve Williams
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Sexual harassment allegations within the theatre sector have prompted the producer of the UK’s biggest pantomimes to remove a longstanding routine from its 30-plus shows.

Michael Harrison, managing director of Qdos Pantomimes, told The Stage that a routine based on an old Morecambe and Wise sketch – where a male character looks up a female performer’s skirt – has been removed from the company’s pantomimes this year.

“I have cut that. Last Christmas it was in nearly every panto in the land, including the Palladium, and it got a massive laugh. This year it just feels wrong. Everybody is a little bit more mindful of that kind of thing,” he said.

However, he said he would not be changing any jokes within his pantomimes.

“What I have not done and what I won’t do is change any jokes, as I don’t believe there is a link between sexual harassment and pantomime. Nobody touches anybody in pantomime. And as far as somewhere like the Palladium goes, of course the show is full of innuendo, because we are working with Julian Clary’s innuendo,” he said.

He added: “Every line Julian has he thinks about it so hard and he really makes sure it’s the right thing to say, so I wouldn’t change it. Why would you have Julian in a show and say ‘We can’t do this or can’t do that’? Do you believe you are going to come to the Palladium and see Dick Whittington and not have a joke about dick? That would be a sad day I think, as you can’t get too hung up on it.”

He added that there would always be “characters that are a little bit naughty as it’s part of British pantomime”.

In January, it was announced that Qdos would be producing pantomimes for Ambassador Theatre Group, which saw ATG dissolve its own pantomime division.

Earlier this week, Glenda Jackson spoke out about sexual harassment in the theatre sector, claiming the belated reaction to it in recent times had been ‘hypocritical’.

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