It is that time of year again, where almost all of our cities theatres are taken over with the traditional run of the Pantomime (or Panto). It is a curious style of entertainment that we Brits find as traditional at Christmas as turkey dinners and family upsets.
Dating back to the 16th century this style of musical comedy still packs in the crowds over the Christmas and New Year Period throughout Britain. Its interactive style, engaging the audience in sing-a-longs and shouting phrases at the performers makes for great family entertainment. Booing, hissing and screaming “it’s behind you” can lead to a very croaky throat the next day, but is absolutely necessary to save the heroine and principal boy from the baddy!
As a mum of three, pantomime has been a Christmas tradition for us for many years. The trusted ingredients of these crazy musical comedies never fail to deliver a raucous evening of entertainment.
Take a fairy-tale, add some singing and dancing, throw in some innuendo, slapstick humour; add a bit of cross-dressing and glittery makeup to create the traditional Panto Dame, who is an over exaggeration of a middle-aged woman. What is not to enjoy?
The lead roles of the larger productions are played by well know TV personalities with the child parts being filled by local, talented children. A sense of community is nurtured further with local, topical comedy throughout the performance. It creates a buzz having the stars resident to the area for the run of the show. My children make it a personal mission to search out an autograph and photo at the stage door post performance. Their excitement in their success is a close second to that of Christmas Day.
The preparation for this festive event has definitely escalated in our household, particularly if the fairy-tale is a family favourite. Yes, fancy dress for the kids is a must. Well, at least until they get to their teenage years, which of course is when they will deny they ever enjoyed such an evening. However, the photographic evidence will remain.
So, the costumes are completely over the top and generally gaudy, the humour is corny and rude, yet the children performers are delightful and the stars great sports. The cast gush with Christmas cheer which over flows to a packed theatre. The child patrons leave the theatre over excited, questioning if baddies and dames actually exist. If a little older, they will be asking for the crass jokes to be explained, the ones that they laughed so loudly at throughout the performance. With something for everyone it is impossible not to feel festive after you have been part of such quirky British tradition.
Tickets booked, fancy dress for kids organised and the autograph book and pen at the ready, I am warming up my vocal chords for a fantastic night of festive fun.
Oh, yes I am!
Like Marmite you will either love or hate this genre of entertainment. Let me know if you are a lover or a hater.