Wolverhampton Grand at 125: When panto gave the boot to controversy

By Marion Brennan | Theatre & Comedy | Published:

Britain's smallest group of stage performers – professional dwarfs – were in big demand in 1984 when this picture was taken.

Stars from the Grand's 1984 -5 panto season pile into the boot of a Ford Cortina

Theatre producers all over the country, including the Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton, had decided to stage Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs as their Christmas pantomime.

And that led to a shortage of dwarfs, with everyone on the acting union Equity 's books being snapped up.

However, Wolverhampton's production had no such problem. The Grand's cast of dwarfs, pictured here squeezed into the boot of a Ford Escort, were chosen by the panto's London producers.

Theatre manager Peter Clayton told the Express & Star at the time: "It was a little bit more difficult than we anticipated but we were very fortunate in getting excellent people for the parts."

The staging of the panto has led to controversy over political correctness in recent times, with children, tall actors on their knees or people wearing masks taking over the roles.

Three years ago theatre chiefs at Leicester's De Montfort Hall prompted ridicule for calling their pantomime simply Snow White – with no mention of the seven dwarfs. The heroine instead had seven 'friends', played by children.

They claimed it would be offensive to describe the vertically challenged as dwarfs. But actor Warwick Davis, who is 3ft 6in tall, branded the decision 'patronising', suggesting the move had more to do with saving money than political correctness.

The Grand has staged the 19th-century Brothers Grimm classic many times over the decades, most recently in 2011 when children wearing masks played the parts.

Marion Brennan

By Marion Brennan

News and features reporter, specialising in human interest and local history stories.


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