The 80-year-old comedy stalwart is appearing as Mother Goose
in the pantomime of the same name at Wilton's Music Hall, a
venue dating back to the 1690s, packed in between tower blocks
and train lines in the capital's East End.
It is a difficult show to describe to anyone who didn't grow up
in Britain, watching pantomimes every Christmas.
"I describe it as the ultimate dog's breakfast of a show," says
Hudd in his changing room. "Because it combines dancing,
singing, story-telling, anything ... Mostly it's aimed at
children. But as the years go by it's become an adult attraction
There are classic ingredients: men dressed as women - the
pantomime dames - fairy tale plot lines, audience chants of
"he's behind you", music hall routines, villains, bawdy - not
dirty - humour and topical jokes that let the audience laugh
away the political upheaval of the past year.
The villains and topical references come together at Wilton's in
the character "Vanity" who tries to steal Mother Goose's goose -
the one that lays the golden eggs.
"He's the villain of the piece and he always refers to Mr Trump,
or President Trump, or Trumpy as his great friend. Which is
guaranteed to get more boos from the audience than he does
himself," says Hudd.
After Trump, there is Brexit, a particularly seismic event in
London where most voted to stay in the European Union and lost.
"I ask the goose what is her problem, because she is very down
in one scene. And she whispers in my ear and I say, 'Oh dear,
you voted Remain, did you? Well it's too late now mate, sorry.'
Which gets a big laugh."
Similar scenes are playing out across Britain.
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The online National Database of Pantomime Performance lists two
other professional productions of Mother Goose, alongside 48
Cinderellas, 37 Aladdins, 21 Snow Whites - so, presumably, 147
dwarfs - and one "Robinson Crusoe and the Pirate Queen".
Heading out further east along the River Thames, actor Andrew
Pollard pulls on his own over-sized bra and dress - this one covered
in pert cupcakes - for a production of "Peter Pan: A New Adventure"
at Greenwich Theatre.
He is tea lady Long Joan Silver, the lynchpin in a plot involving
Wendy's great-great-grandaughter, also called Wendy, Tinkerbell on a
motorised scooter and the boy who still hasn't grown up, Peter.
There is a light touch of politics to go alongside the songs and
joyous corpsing and dancing. Captain Hook goes into a rant about
fighting Peter that segues into an impression of Donald Trump
talking about his "beautiful wall".
"It's a family show based on a fairy tale ... It's also a slight
comment on a society, what's been going on in a year. It's a rag-bag
of things," says Pollard.
It's a mix that seems to be attracting a more diverse audience.
Grownup-only groups are up. As are ticket sales overall. "We've been
pretty much sold out from the word go, so maybe people really do
need a bit of a laugh."
(Reporting by Andrew Heavens; Editing by Toby Chopra)
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