Look out! She's behind you!

Look out! She's behind you!
An intern's experiences with the Pantomime Ephemera Collection
29 September 2011

As an intern in the National Library this year, I expected to find myself doing ‘something’ with books, knowing little about the vast holdings of realia and ephemera the Library also holds. For the past few weeks however, I’ve been going through our PROMPT (Australian Performing Arts) collection and updating a finding aid for the ephemera associated with Aussie soap stars performing in UK pantomimes. As most ephemera is not individually catalogued, finding aids assist researchers to locate material by collating information about it under one ‘heading’; in this case, ‘Australian Performers in UK pantomime’. The smaller ephemera – programs and flyers for example – within the PROMPT holdings are kept in grey plastic boxes in their own area within the Library’s stacks. The decision was made to file all the ephemera for pantos featuring Australians in one sequence, alphabetically by panto name. As many Australian actors and production professionals have their own files, all the ephemera in these relating to their performances in a UK panto had to be pulled out, and then re-filed in the panto file. Along the way, the details of each performance were recorded and the Finding Aid slowly came together as an indexed word document. It is now up on the Library’s website as a searchable PDF, and hopefully will be of use to researchers looking at Australia’s performing arts history in the future.

Panto programs

Panto programs

The PROMPT stacks are a couple of floors downstairs from my desk, so the Australian Collection Development trolley got a good workout – there were 261 productions featuring 295 Australian performances between 1982 and 2010. No wonder UK Actors Equity tried to get the British Government to deny them work permits! Along the way, I’ve discovered that Rolf Harris performed Jake the Peg when performing in Cinderella, Toby Hull and Emu appeared as Pirates in Peter Pan, and Bananas in Pyjamas were an integral part of the cast of Aladdin in the 2004/05 panto season (presumably as Bananas). Who knew? Despite amassing 11 full boxes of panto ephemera, there are still gaps in this collection. If you’ve been to a UK panto featuring an Australian and still have the program, please visit our panto wish list.  If you can find any of the items listed, you could help us by donating them to the Library or simply let us know their whereabouts.