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Gyles Brandreth's Diary: The unique joy of panto

Regulars | By Gyles Brandreth

Where else could I work with Barbara Windsor and Basil Brush?

Sleeping Beauty. Had I been available, I might have said yes because I am quite comfortable in a stylish frock and I’d have been co-starring with Basil Brush, one of my childhood heroes. Basil is a glove puppet, a feisty, fruity-voiced fox, created in 1963 by Peter Firmin, now in his ninetieth year (and the genius who also gave us Noggin the Nog, Ivor the Engine, Bagpuss and The Clangers, but still doesn’t have even an OBE), and the late, great Ivan Owen, who provided Basil’s glorious voice until his death in 2000. Ivan told me he had modelled Basil’s voice and persona on his favourite actor, Terry-Thomas, in the hope that in so doing the character would appeal to adults as well as children. The strategy worked.  When I was last in panto, it was Cinderella. I played Baron Hardup, Barbara Windsor played the Fairy Godmother and Ray Alan...

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