Is Yellowface (and other cultural appropriation) given a free pass in Panto? – My friend's 5 year old niece objecting: she’s more aware because she’s had to grow up feeling different?-It transpired that the panto in question was “purchased in” from a commercial company. The theatre had read the script but had been unable to see the costume designs until it was too late in the day to do anything. The theatre in question has engaged brilliantly on this issue and is very happy to work with Equity to engage commercial panto companies and persuade them to think in a modern way about their portrayals and choices.-Much talk about the critical mass of white people who possibly aren’t concerned about racist jokes/appropriation-How many minority ethnic actually get taken to panto growing up? (not many in the group have/did)-Panto often seems like the kind of shows where “political correctness gets to go on holiday” – what certain people want to say all year but keep quiet until they get to release it all at christmas -Yet Hackney Empire and Theatre Royal Stratford East have been making diverse, inclusive and also hilariously funny and edgy pantomimes for years. This year’s TRSE show, Rapunzel (directed by Pooja Ghai) broke box office records and pulled in the entire local community. -The point is we still want raunchy, punchy dick jokes, just not offensive lazy stereotypical shit.-What can we do that isn’t just yelling? -Panto scripts are updated all the time– full of references to recent news etc. so why is racism overlooked? They can change their approach any time. In fact a recent tweet by Tory MP Nadine Dorries complaining about “PC killing panto” revealed that chronic arts underfunding at a local level had in fact made panto far more generic and less “community relevant” with often just the name of the local football team thrown in for local reference. -It’s the people in charge.-It’s not about making a Chinese cinderella, it’s about not exhibiting exoticised, “far off” locations and stereotypy costumes that reduce “Asians” to a… costume.-This year’s Dick Whittington had people do Jai-Ho [groans from group]-Why are we teaching kids- to laugh at minorities and call / think of us as evil/stupid-Panto is different to the rest of the theatre experience… as if people in charge think “it’s for the working class, so it doesn’t have to be relevant/woke”-Panto is the money-spinner for a lot of venues… Pantos rolled out by commercial companies (“flat-pack pantos”).-The Panto world, unlike the theatre world, isn’t ready to call itself out – too motivated by money-How do we change that? Hit them where it counts – the money. How? Hold audiences accountable – stop sales = make change-But you can’t mess with Panto because we’re run by a neo-liberal economy-I read a story on FB about a South Asian person walking out of their local panto with his child because the content was racist and then being targeted from the stage as he was leaving.-Too much panto is lazy at the moment.-90% is flatpack – rolled out out by commercial companies as a franchise-Can we get demographics of Hackney vs. other regional theaters’ pantos?-Regional artistic director: difference between affecting and influencing change. Hopes he’s affecting. Wants to hold a forum for talking about panto-“Panto is super expensive to produce”-How can we support Regional venues to talk about yellowfacing?-“Can’t you just stop buying these flatpack pantos?” – it’s more difficult than that – they’ll just sell the show to the theatre down the street. So why don’t all the theatres work together? Make a United Pressure Group?-Audiences aren’t woke enough to realise what they’re watching?-The people who complain aren’t the woke people – we need to complain more often!! (I saw a production of Oh What A Lovely War in Aylesbury where a cast member pulled back their eyes on the word “Japanese”. The whole audience (all Caucasian) laughed. Except me -Panto often people’s first exposure of theatre- and to the power of theatre in influencing opinion.-WE the DIVERSE have to provide an alternate show WHEN we’re complaining or we can’t be listened to by producers.-Arabian Nights project by Kamaal Hussein- Cerrie Burnell – visibly disabled BBC presenter. BBC received a lot of complaints from parents about how she was disabled, BBC stood behind her and set a precedent of protecting people. -There ARE small theatre companies doing non-offensive pantos, they’re just not recognised [Light Entertainment Society]-Flatpack pantos not showing their costumes until they’re already bought – and being horribly racist / made decades ago. At that point, all a theatre can do is shut the show down. -The Unicorn / small theatres should raise the confidence to tour their shows!! Large venues do recognise the good work of shows like The Velveteen Rabbit. -Who are employed as “sensitivity readers”? “a really diverse group of people”. ……. But who though, and obviously they’re not enough.-Panto represents the Best and Worst of tehatre. Usually rehearsal is done in a single week – cast meeting on Monday with first show on Saturday. -Theatres should allow themselves to slow things down – danger of commercial reality – decisions made badly, and at speed.-Actors: do I speak up and be uncastable or put my head down?-So how come shitty pantos can still be staged/get through loopholes? Because audiences aren’t complaining!! (And they won’t if it doesn’t affect them personally)-How do you complain? Who to? And how do you convince young people to complain? -Go to Equity. Contact Theatres. Just do it.Then general chat about being an actor of colour-White actor lauded for turning down yellowfacing role (Hellboy) vs. poc stories-Panto breaks the fourth wall – you can make a deliberate point of calling out bullshit! -Comedy as a genre – presenting work NO theatre maker would endorse. Pantos run by COMEDY people not THEATRE people – same business models. Comedians can often racist/sexist/phobic as part of their act, so is panto.-Chinese Burn – “well that’s comedy, it’s racist!” [UGH from group]-PoC often make comedy out of our own culture – resort to it as odd self-hatred? -PoC “can’t take a joke”, often have to laugh at our own culture to fit in / not seem like a stick in the mud-PoC make a career out of pretending they can’t speak English. Conclusion: I want to take this on and engage with Equity on this. Thanks to all who attended a brilliant session: Carmina, Pippa Sa, Beth Watson, Carolyn, Nemo Martin, Annice Bopprai, Hannah, Ariane Barnes, Miranda Debenham, Leo Wan, Stella Duffy, Sarah Bedi, Jess Moncur, Emma Cameron, James Dacre, Joanna Greavely, Laura Kressly, Lekan Lawal, Clarissa Widya, Kamal Hussain, Sarah Punshon, Rebecca Atkinson Lord.SPECIAL THANKS to Nemo Martin for taking brilliantly copious notes which I've edited slightly. Also to Clarissa Widya for her fantastic live tweeting.