A pantomime has dropped a comedy song that makes fun of vegans after receiving complaints from the audience.
A performance of Mother Goose at the Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham included song lyrics that theatregoers described as “bullying” and “offensive” towards vegans.
The number in question said that the “G in vegan stands for gassy, while the A stands for either anaemic or annoying”.
Characters Mother Goose and her two sons, Caleb and Clarkson, attempt to thwart the evil Demon Vanity’s attempts to steal Piddly Plop Farm in the festive pantomime.
A girl in the audience, who is vegan, said the song was repeated to her at school after going to see a performance with her fellow classmates.
Her father claimed she asked him: “Why did the actors think it’s okay to be horrible to kids like me, who just want to be kind to animals and not eat them?”
Speaking to GloucestershireLive, he said that it seemed “unnecessary to have a whole song at the end of the panto dedicated to spiteful jibes towards vegans”, adding: “As entertaining as it was for a certain section of the audience.”
The girl’s father deemed the acronyms as “cheap anti-vegan jibes” and explained that her schoolmates had been singing “that vegan panto song” at her.
He said that his Christmas wish was that production bosses “think for a moment about the real harm that this will cause to more children, at what should be a joyous experience for all”.
“There is often a fine line between humour and bullying and I’m afraid our experience is that the good people of the Everyman theatre have found themselves firmly on the wrong side of that line on this occasion,” he added.
More complaints were also received through social media over whether the “same type of jokes would be made about religious minorities”.
A spokesman for The Vegan Society told The Telegraph that it was “disappointing to see potentially harmful stereotypes about vegans still being shared in 2023”, even when intended in good humour.
“Including comments about deficiencies in a vegan diet or calling vegans annoying has the potential to put people off trying a lifestyle that is hugely beneficial to animals and to the environment.”
They added that it is “perfectly possible” to get all the necessary nutrients on a vegan diet, in reference to the show’s anaemic gag.
“We hope the Everyman Theatre chooses to make their jokes vegan-friendly going forward.”
The pantomime’s production executives removed the song from future shows, insisting that the creative team “continuously evaluates all aspects of the performance”.
A statement from the Everyman Theatre said that pantomime is “a uniquely collaborative art form where the audience is very much a part of the show and we respect all of our audience’s views and comments”.
Showrunners insisted that the panto “changes all the time”, including from “production to production”, but nevertheless decided to remove the song following the complaints.
Mother Goose has already garnered five star reviews despite the row and the change is unlikely to have an impact on future performances, in which the cast always comes up with new jokes during the running of the show. Cast members include West End performers such as Jessica Martin, Bree Smith and Dominic Treacy.
Famed local clown Tweedy also stars as the goose. Tweedy, also known as Alan Digweed, was made an MBE by King Charles in the monarch’s first New Year’s Honours List for “services to the circus”.
The theatre, positioned in the centre of town, presents a wide range of shows including comedy, drama, musicals and opera.
A statement from the Everyman Theatre said: “Our pantomime Mother Goose, is a live production, which is constantly being refined and improved.
“The creative team behind this year’s production continuously evaluates all aspects of the performance in order to create the best, most entertaining experience for the audience possible.
“Pantomime is a uniquely collaborative art form where the audience is very much a part of the show and we respect all of our audience’s views and comments.
“The relationship between our amazingly talented cast and the audience is what makes pantomime special and makes each and every performance a singular live event.”
Mother Goose at the Everyman Theatre runs until Jan 7 next year.