The Mayflower's latest pantomime, Cindrella starring Brian Conley, has been a huge success and deservedly so. Yet, for a moment when I read the Daily Echo's story about it, I felt like one of those old communist leaders from Russia or China who were written out of history. The reason is, it was described as the theatre's 'most successful panto ever' with 'record breaking' sales of 68,500.
Given that I was marketing The Mayflower back in the 1990s when panto attendances regularly exceeded 100,000, I had to wonder if my memory deceived me? Was the best selling Mayflower pantomime ever not Dick Whittington starring Lesley Joseph and John Nettles? Were the 126,256 tickets sold a figment of my imagination? Was Brian Conley himself wondering if he really looked out on over 100,000 people during his first appearance as Buttons. I imagined a voice was saying, "Of course, dear, the old days were always better."
So how did the comic legend's latest Cinderella manage to be a record breaker with only 68,500 ticket sales? The answer is, as ever, in the detail. It's the largest attendance for a three-and-a-half week run. No wonder I was confused. The sales figures I remember were for six or seven week runs. To paraphrase Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, "It's the pantos that got smaller."
Pantos may not generate the sales they used to but The Mayflower is still turning out spectacular shows with impressive attendances. As for being record breakers, well, that's exactly the kind of PR spin I would have used myself to make a story. So some things don't change. Well done!