Amaka Okafor (Kaz)
Helen picks ex-cellmate Kaz (and her two children, Courtney and Paige) up from the railway station, having paid for her tickets. Helen is also paying for them all to go and see the panto, which seems a mean trick, if the dire quality of the rhyming couplets is anything to go by.
The two women talk and Kaz says that her ex hasn’t been round to see them, whereupon Helen tells her about when Rob came round, delivering presents for the boys, and how it seemed that he had really learned his lesson, talking to the vicar and so on. “You didn’t fall for it, did you?” asks an alarmed Kaz and, when Helen says that he seemed sincere and wondered whether or not there was a chance of them having a future together, Kaz is even more worried, saying: “Please tell me you told him to do one.”
Helen says that she did somehow and Kaz then relates the story of how her ex behaved the same way and she took him back. At first all was hunky dory, but he soon reverted to type and the abuse started all over again. Calling Helen “my role model”, Kaz tells her “He’s not gonna drag you down now - I know it.” Listen to Kaz, Helen; you said that she got you through the trial and time in prison, so don’t go ignoring her now - if you welcome Rob back after all what’s happened, you will have five million irate listeners baying for your blood.
We next see the two of them (plus children) at the panto, where they are sitting close to Justin’s wife, Miranda. When Justin and Lilian come on stage, Kaz comments, not exactly sotto voce, that there’s a couple who are obviously at it. “That’s his wife over there” Helen hisses, warningly. Did Miranda hear? We don’t know, but we were informed that she left the panto at the interval and she wasn’t looking very happy.
Let’s deal with the panto. The story followed that of earlier years, with Lynda having hysterics at dress rehearsal, predicting disaster and her theatrical reputation in tatters and reminding everyone that Tristram Hawkshaw will be in the audience tomorrow, reviewing the show for the Echo. To be fair to Lynda, she was under a lot of stress, as Kate’s costume production line seemed to be working on a ‘just in time’ basis, with costumes for Act One turning up seconds before the dress rehearsal started and those for Act Two being brought in while the first Act was in progress.
Her mood was not improved by Kenton’s outrageous ad-libbing, and she wasn’t the only one to complain, as Justin moaned that the numerous off-script excursions were confusing him and making him lose the thread. Lynda confronts Kenton and, when he says that his ad-libs are ‘improvements’, there is a mega sniff from Lynda, reminiscent of what might have been heard in the dressing room of a seventies rock band before a concert. In icy tones, she tells him that her script doesn’t need improving. Taking his life in his hands, Kenton persists, saying that the punters laughed at his jokes. “You can have too much laughter” Lynda says, loftily and, when a puzzled Kenton says that it’s a pantomime, she says that it’s also a drama. My God, on a scale of pretentiousness from 1 to 100, she rates about 275.
Anyway, the evening arrives and Tristram Hawkshaw is in the audience. Lynda is having an attack of the vapours when Pip drops by to tell her that Toby (Priscilla the goose) is stuck in Brighton and won’t make the performance. Disaster! Lynda goes into panic overdrive and, when Pip asks if Toby has an understudy, Lynda says sarcastically “This is the Ambridge Players, not the Royal Shakespeare Company!” The way she was talking earlier, you could have fooled me.
In a ‘blow me down, I never saw that coming’ moment, Lynda forces Pip to take over the goose role, which she does. What she should have done was either texted Lynda, or left a note, saying ‘Toby can’t make it tonight’, then switch off her phone and either go to the pub or barricade herself into Rickyard, having got blind drunk first, but she was doomed by delivering the message in person. At least I hope she demanded the cost of her ticket back.
Kenton, abetted by Pip, continued to ad-lib (the fart gag was put back in) and the panto went down a storm with the audience and evoked a rapturous reception from Tristram Hawkshaw. This is almost exactly the same story as Blithe Spirit a couple of years back, when Susan played it (albeit accidentally) for laughs, much to Lynda’s dismay and Tristram thought Susan was marvellous. Instead of thinking ‘maybe next year I’ll go for laughs from the start’, Lynda tells Kenton that, when Tristram congratulated her, she told him “a good director has to have faith in her cast”, which wins this year’s prize for breathtaking audacity.
A question Lynda asked was “why has Toby gone to Brighton?” Good question, Lyn - he told Pip that he had to go down that same night, for ‘an all-boys Christmas thing’ and he’d be back the next day, but his pick-up broke down. Pip didn’t seem to find anything suspicious in this, especially when Toby claimed that it was a long-standing arrangement that he had completely forgotten about. I mean, how likely is it that a party animal like Toby would forget the date of a party? We have had Toby shoot off to Brighton before at short notice; in fact the last time he went, he borrowed money off Rex for reasons that were not specified. This story is obviously a slow burner, but if I were Pip, I’d ask for my five grand back.
Christmas at Brookfield wasn’t much fun - at Rickyard, Toby was cooking lunch and burned the roasties, so he and Pip had chocolate instead. David did go to Rickyard and practically forced Pip and Toby to join them for tea at Brookfield. Presents were exchanged and Toby was surprised to be included, although Jill’s present to him (a T-shirt with a target over the heart and the words ‘insert knife here’ shouldn’t have come as a shock. As it was, Jill spent most of the day in the kitchen, ostentatiously avoiding Toby.
After Christmas, Rooooth takes Jill to one side and says that Christmas had not been a very happy time and “We can’t go on like this.” Of course, going on is what Jill is good at and she tells Rooooth that Christmas was Pip’s decision - she would have been welcome at Brookfield any time. Furthermore, the fact that Toby didn’t turn up for the panto is just another example of his unreliability and why did he go to Brighton, anyway? Rooooth doesn’t care. “What I care about is this family.” “So do I” Jill retorts, only to be told by her daughter in law “I’m sorry, but your attitude is tearing it apart. Jill says she’s sorry, but she cannot change the way she feels. Rooooth agrees, but points out that Jill can change the way she acts towards Pip and Toby.
What else happened? Debbie and Dr Locke became the talk of the village (or the shop, anyway) when Susan notices that they are getting along famously at the pub. Not only that, but they both leave together. This disappoints Elizabeth, who has been dropping hints that she is ready for a new relationship and who has her eye on the doctor.
Someone else whose Christmas could have been better is Ed Grundy. He and Emma scrimped and saved to buy George a second-hand bicycle for Christmas and this is gratefully received - at least until Will turns up with a quad bike as his son’s present. George is besotted and Ed has to watch him riding it all over the place. Drain the petrol tank, Ed. Alistair notices that Ed is feeling pretty pissed off and takes him to The Bull for a pint and a moan. That’s the least he could do, as it was his bill for ministering to the ram with the torn scrotum that didn’t help the Grundy financial situation any.
Roy is living in fear of Tracy Horrobin, who has set her cap (and various other parts) at him. She sent him a text, telling him exactly what she was going to do to him at the New Year’s party. Stay at home, Roy, that’s my advice. And barricade the door.
Finally, let’s go back to the final episode of the week. Tom and Kirsty have just finished the panto and he remarks that they had great chemistry Kirsty stops him, saying: “I’ve got some news - I’m pregnant and I’m keeping the baby. I’m telling you, because it’s yours.” Tom thinks this is brilliant news and is overcome when Kirsty shows him the photo of her recent scan. He asks if he can come with her when she has her next scan? She agrees and Tom goes on: “When it’s born I want to be really hands on - if that’s what you want.” Kirsty obviously isn’t too sure, as she tells him “It’s hard to see that far ahead. Let’s just play it by ear.”
So, that was Christmas week in Ambridge and hopefully we have heard the last of the panto (he said, fingers crossed). In the first paragraph, I mentioned the dire rhyming couplets, which got me thinking about how Kirsty might have announced her pregnancy, had it been part of the panto. Here, then, is my homage to Lynda Snell‘s dialogue, as Kirsty and Tom talk.
Tom: You can say whatever you like, but I thought we were both great tonight.
Kirsty: Forget about the silly play, as I’ve got something I must say.
I guess you’ll find out soon enough, but you have got me up the duff.
A happy 2017 to all our readers, from Neil and Peter