18 JANUARY 1975, Page 13

Personal column

Toby O'Brien

The pantomime season is still with us, but, alas, not the traditional pantomime of my youth With its unscanned rhyming couplets and its unvarying 'business' of the broker's men, the interior decorators, and the Demon King.

Before the war I used to go with my late wife and Lawrence Venn, who has just retired from being chairman of Moet et Chandon in this country, on December 23 to the Lyceum matinee. The libretto was always written by the box office manager of the Lyceum in the sUmmer (in the winter he was writing the libretti for the pier shows) and you could buy a Copy of the script. Lawrence Venn says that not the most ardent Wagner fan followed the script Of the Ring as avidly as I did, almost protesting if the actors departed from it. Nowadays, of course, the rhyming couplet, except in some theatres in the provinces, is out, and in its place are blue jokes mostly about homosexuals, Which even in our permissive society are scarcely suitable for children even if they understand them.

The nearest in those days that we got to blue Jokes was when the Queen of Hearts would exclaim petulantly:

Oh dearie me, Where is that Knave of Hearts? I expect he has been fooling around with some of my tarts.

Alas the age of innocence has gone and that of economists, sophisters, and inferior scriptwriters, has succeeded. But I would like to see iust one more traditional pantomime before I shuffle off this mortal coil.