Thursday, 3 January 2013

Pantos – what makes a good one?

ere in the UK we have this great Christmas tradition of Pantomimes, thank goodness. It’s easily a decade since I last saw one but I put that right this week.

We booked a family ticket to see Dick Whittington at a city near to us and had a riot. I don’t know who enjoyed it most, the kids or us.

I thought my six-year-old was about to combust as she screamed over and over again to the pantomime dame on stage “BEHIIIIND YOU!”

Her brother, who discovered chart music in the last few months of 2012, beamed with delight as the cast sang their own ‘special’ lyrics to music by One Direction, Jessie J and Olly Murs.

And we all ducked futilely as we got drenched when the pantomime “rats” came into the audience brandishing water pistols.

What is it about panto’? The same shows come out year after year, Snow White, Dick Whittington, Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella, Aladdin and lately, Peter Pan, yet clever writers (take a bow Simon Aylin) still find ways to reinvent the shows and breathe new life into them.

This production, by One From The Heart Theatre Company, was top quality all the way – as good as any West End show. As my husband rose from his seat he turned to me and said: “That show was ten out of ten.”

None of the lead cast members were household names, well not to us, but they really didn't need to be. There were smiles on everyone’s faces as they left the theatre.

Panto has its roots in the 16th century commedia dell’arte traditions in Italy combined with 17th century British and European stage traditions. We’ve all grown up with it. It’s as much a part of our Christmas as over-eating and Brussels sprouts’ flatulence. Yet, unbelievably, this kind of festive panto entertainment is not popular in the States.

Canada, Australia and South Africa have all embraced the concept of pantomimes, but not America. Guys, you don’t know what you’re missing!

If you want audience participation, a laugh a minute and good all-round family entertainment, you can’t get better than this. I’ll certainly be booking more tickets for the local theatre’s offering next Christmas/New year.

If you are British, keep panto in mind for 2013 – if you are American – hard cheese, as we say in Blighty. I guess you’ll just have to make do with the TV.

Happy New Year and Hey Presto People.

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