It's a brave man who carries Mrs Pumphrey over his shoulder up a narrow ladder and onto the roof of a theatre that is all slippey slidey with snow. She's a bit of a struggler, is Mrs Pumphrey and so it is with some relief that the Phantomime deposits her next to the chimney.
'Well!' says Mrs Pumphrey, brushing herself straight. 'That was undignified.' She looks around her. 'But I am glad I'm wearing this dress of attractive peacock blue. Otherwise I'd never show up in all this snow and they wouldn't be able to see me.'
'They?' says the Phantomime, adjusting his own King Rat costume and wishing he'd thought to bring along something a little more sartorial to change into.
'Yes,' says Mrs Pumphrey, peering over the edge of the roof. 'They.' And she points downwards with her snowy white wing.
The Phantomime looks down,too, and sees hundreds of faces staring up at him.
'Oh, good grief,' he says, for there is nothing like a crowd of onlookers to spoil an atmosphere of romance. He waves his arms. 'GO AWAY!' he shouts.
'NO CHANCE!' responds one of the crowd. 'We paid good money to see a show and a show we are going to see!'
'My public!' sighs Mrs Pumphrey. 'Coo-eee!' she waves. 'COOOO-EEEEEE!!!'
'Will you come away from that edge?' says the Phantomime. 'You'll fall.'
'I'm a chicken,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'If I fall, I'll flap and bounce. And don't tell me what to do, you snidey weirdo.'
'That is no way to speak to your fiancé!' says the Phantomime. 'Especially after all I have done to launch you on the path to stardom.'
Mrs Pumphrey lets out a massive and inelegant guffaw. 'You? My dear Mr Phantomime...I was already a star long before you came along. I have my own perfume range.'
'And YOU are NOT her fiancé!' comes a voice from behind. And they both turn to see Tango Pete emerge from the hatch onto the roof, puffing and a bit red around the wattles, but emerging nonetheless like some triumphant Venus from the waves (or whatever is the male equivalent.)
'Oh yeah?' says the Phantomime, taking a step forward to block the path of Mrs Pumphrey.
'Oh yeah!' says Tango Pete. 'I am Mrs Pumphrey's fiancé...'
Mrs Pumphrey gasps. 'Tango Pete!' she squeals. 'Do you mean it? Are we really to be wed?'
'If you'll have me!' shouts Tango Pete.
'Of course!' squeals Mrs Pumphrey. (She does a lot of squealing when she is excited. You can't stop her, so don't bother trying. Earplugs are best.)
'NO!' shouts the Phantomime. 'I shall not surrender without a fight. Put 'em up, Pete of Tango. I shall do honourable battle for the honour of the fair maiden.'
Mrs Pumphrey sniggers. 'Trust me, pal - the honour of this maiden left the building a long time ago.'
But the Phantomime is not listening. Arms raised in the stance of a boxer (the fighter, not the dog - that would be ridiculous) he is advancing on Tango Pete who, having now caught his breath, is squaring up to his adversary and dancing around the roof space.
'Ooooh,' say the audience from below.
'Aaargh!' shouts Tango Pete as the Phantomime lands the first punch.
There follows much dodging and ducking and diving as Tango Pete and the Phantomime spar their way around the roof, sometimes disappearing from view behind the chimney or behind thick flurries of snow. Mrs Pumphrey tries to shout encouragement from the sidelines but it's difficult to cheerlead when one is distracted with thoughts of one's wedding dress, and where to put Auntie Madge on the seating plan to keep her away from Auntie Hilda because they haven't spoken for years, not after that incident in Munich 1978.
The audience 'ooooh' and 'aaaaah' with every punch and slap and just when it is all starting to look slightly unChristmassy, the Phantomime stumbles dangerously close to the roof's edge.
'He's going to fall!' shouts someone from below, and the audience takes a collective step backwards because, let's face it, no-one wants to be knocked unconscious by a falling Phantomime.
The Phantomime totters on the icy tiles, flailing wildy to maintain his balance. He slips.
'Ooooooohhh!' says the audience.
'Watch out!' everyone cries.
And then the Phantomime stumbles from the roof. And as he falls he grasps wildly and manages to grab hold of a gargoyle, leaving him dangling precariously from the guttering over the snowy void below.
'Help me!' he shouts, wishing with all his heart he'd not been such a Scrooge and had forked out for a stunt Phantomime at the beginning of the whole sorry plot. 'HEEEELP MEEEEE!!'
Now, dear audience, worry you not. I have not forgotten that it is Christmas time, season of goodwill to all including pantomime villains. This is not an Elizabethan tragedy (nor a Jacobean one, either, which some scholars regard as even worse vis a vis murder, conspiracy and revenge) - no-one deserves to die, especially not on my watch.
As the Phantomime's grip loosens on his gargoyle (oo-er, missus!) there comes in a twinkling, from up on the roof, the prancing and pawing of a reindeer hoof! Well, eight times four reindeer hooves to be exact, for who should appear at this VERY moment but the artist formerly known as Tybalt, Prince of Cats and now known as Nicholas, Father of Christmas!! (You didn't think I'd forget Tybalt, did you??)
'Ho, ho, ho!' he chuckles, and skilfully swoops his jingle bell sledge across the roof and beneath the Phantomime, just as the villain loses his grip and begins what would, under any other circumstances, have been a fatal plummet towards the ground.
'Up we go!' shouts Santa Tybalt. 'Up Dasher and Dancer, and Prancer and Vixen! Up Comet and Cupid and Donder and Alice!'
(N.B Alice is standing in for Blitzen who has reindeer flu. Alice is also a camel. She has three humps, but that's another story.)
The sleigh swoops around the sky causing much hysteria amongst the children down below, and quite a few of the adults, too. Santa Tybalt lands on the roof and administers a nip of medicinal brandy to the Phantomime who has fainted during the course of the exciting rescue and has woken up thinking he has crossed the Rainbow Bridge.
'It's all right, young Phantomime-me-lad,' says Santa Tybalt. 'You're all safe and sound now. And I hope you have learned your lesson. All this nonsense about Phantomiming and kidnapping and delusions of grandeur - what were you thinking?'
The Phantomime's bottom lip gives a quiver. 'It's just that...well, all my life I've always felt ignored.'
'Who said that?' says a voice from the roof hatch, and Dame Hamlet squeezes herself through, with much grunting and effort. 'Is that Kenneth, whinging again?'
'You see?' says the Phantomime. 'It's like no-one takes me seriously, not even my own mother.'
Santa Tybalt scratches his whiskers thoughtfully. 'Hmmmm...' he says. 'I have always wondered why you've spent most if your life on my Naughty List.'
'I want to be nice, honest I do,' says the Phantomime. 'I've just never been given the chance.'
Santa Tybalt slaps his thigh. 'In that case, I have an idea! How would you like to come with me to the North Pole and be an elf? We might have to work on your choice of clothing and the fact you walk like a duck...'
'Am I a duck?' says the Phantomime.
'Well,' says I because I have been paying attention, honest I have, 'I had planned for you to be at the start of this débâcle, but you morphed out of it.'
'Oh,' says the Phantomime. 'Then, what AM I?'
'You are unique!' says Santa Tybalt. 'Come on - what do you say? Will you join the elf service?'
'Will I be the star?' says the Phantomime.
'No,' says Santa Tybalt. 'I am the star. Let's be quite sure about THAT point. You can be...a moonbeam! How about that?'
And without further ado (and because I have waffled on a bit today, and well done if you're still with me!) Santa Tybalt sprinkles his magic dust over the seven reindeer and one camel and the sledge shoots upwards and onwards into the snowy, sparkly night sky.
'I'm a moonbeam!' laughs the Phantomime.'Mwahahahhohohoho...HO!!'
'We might need to work on your jolly laugh,too,' sighs Santa Tybalt.
And then they are gone. Well, things to do, stockings to stuff. You know.
'Well,' says Mrs Pumphrey, as Tango Pete helps her down from the roof of the theatre using his emergency abseiling kit. 'Is that it then?'
'No,' says Tango Pete. 'Camilla is still missing. Had you forgotten?'
'Well, I hadn't,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'But I think the scriptwriter almost did.'
'Hush,' says I. 'Oh no I didn't.'