Early Scottish panto stars are brought to life (oh yes they are)

RARE and historical footage of Scotland's pantomime heroes dating back up to 80 years has been made available to the public for the first time.

The films were discovered in archives by researchers at Glasgow University, who were putting together an exhibition on "Scotland's favourite kind of theatre" to highlight its cultural impact.

The rare footage, which dates from the 1930s, celebrates panto stars including comedians Dave Willis, George West, Bert Denver, Jack Anthony and Harry Gordon in his famous partnerships with Will Fyffe and Alec Finlay.

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It has been put together on a DVD entitled Pantomime in Scotland, to be sold at panto venues throughout the country over the festive season.

Professor Adrienne Scullion, James Arnott Chair of Drama of the University of Glasgow, who has led the Pantomime in Scotland research project, said: "Pantomime is one of the great forms of popular theatre.

"In Scotland, pantomime has a distinctive tradition that is based on the connection it achieves with audiences and the scale and quality of the industry, too.

"According to theatre director Lewis Casson, 'the national theatre of Scotland is pantomime'.

"The films featured in this DVD provide not just the documentary evidence of pantomime but they also capture something of the spirit of pantomime, too.

"Despite being silent, despite being of variable technical quality and despite being more than 60 years old, these films show the craft and the personalities of the pantomime performers, the glamour and the energy of pantomime production, the joy and the fun of pantomime performance.

"There are very few live events that appeal to the socially diverse and multi-generational audience of families, schoolchildren and older generations, too. This remains as true today as it did in decades when the films featured here were made."

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Pantomime legend Stanley Baxter said: "Pantomime was always very close to my heart and I loved it from a very early age. I saw Tommy Lorne when I was almost too young to remember it – almost, but not quite. It was a joy to be involved in pantomime for so much of my career."

The DVD accompanies the Pantomime in Scotland interactive exhibition, which has begun a tour of Scottish theatres including Motherwell Theatre; the King's Theatre, Glasgow; and The Macrobert Arts Centre, Stirling.

The exhibition tells the story of Scottish pantomime from its Victorian origins to the present day – and takes an affectionate journey through its dames, heroes and villains, stories, humour and magnificent sets and costumes.

Present-day stars featured include Rikki Fulton, Jimmy Logan and Gerard Kelly.