AVABANANA is the name of my one-person theatrical production company. Its name comes from an old English music hall song, the title of which slips my mind, that contains the dropped-h, Cockney-accented interjection, “‘ave a banana!” I’ve contributed to the creation of a few UK-style music halls in my time, and though AVABANANA has nothing to do with them, I do like the name.

Anyway, under the AVABANANA banner (or avabananner, if you prefer), I have written a modest number of plays, to wit: three holiday pantomimes, a dramatization of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and an historical drama set in the War of 1812. Each has been performed for runs of from 10 to 12 performances at the community theatre in Selby, Ontario (part of Greater Napanee), and two have also been performed by a different company in Kingston, Ontario. The Selby theatre, though attractive in many respects, also happens to be quite tiny, seating only 80, so these plays have been tested for performance in small spaces.

With the exception of the historical drama, each show calls for a proscenium stage with a working curtain and a bit of an apron, as well as entrances from the house. Again with the exception of the three-hander historical drama, each calls for a large cast and a talented and dedicated technical staff.

Two of the pantomimes require large animal puppets with animatronic features. The reindeer, Cosmos, in Santa Claus, The Panto, has a talking part, so it’s essential that his mouth opens and closes. It also helps the effect greatly if his eyelids function. That’s less essential for the camel in Aladdin, but it still wows the audience to have the beast blink now and then – or wink surreptitiously at the Genie of the Ring – and appear to sing along with the chorus numbers. I have been very lucky to have a close friend who, in addition be being able to design and paint a set like no one’s business, was also able to design and build these astonishing puppets. He also built a fabulous dragon for the cave scene in Aladdin. At the risk of putting you off the idea of mounting these shows, I highly recommend having just such an “artist engineer” in place beforehand. You’ll also want to have crackerjack musical directors and accompanists for the pantos, and for Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, which works best when it has musical underscoring like an old melodrama. Of course, any large-cast show has monstrous costuming requirements, and these are elaborate fantasies to boot, so others of your best friends had better be gifted costumers. There’s plenty of work and artistic scope in these shows for talented stage managers, assistant stage managers, sound and lighting designers and operators, and for clever set builders too. I’ve had more than my share of good fortune in all these areas.

As is usually the case with these things, you’re on your own for what music you use for my pantos, but I have some suggestions that might be of interest to you. When we did Santa Claus, The Panto, I rewrote lyrics to popular Christmas songs, turning, for example, Silver Bells into a love duet of reminiscence for Santa and Mrs. Claus. Of course, you’re on the hook for assuring that you’ve acquired the necessary performance rights for the tunes you pick.

Have a look at what I’ve got to offer here, and if you’re interested in reading one or more of my scripts, send me a request through the form on the Contact Me page. I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours truly,

Richard Linley
Kingston, Ontario