It’s Pantomime Time

Going to a pantomime was on the list of things to do while living in the UK.

We saw Dick Whittington today. It’s nice ticking something off a list when it pretty much required me to sit in a chair eating chocolate and Pringles. At one point I laughed and chocolate went up my nose, but you can’t have everything.

It was great fun and we walked out of there in the best of moods. Colourful and noisy, the usual theatre rules of a silent audience don’t apply. This is what I knew about them before today:

– People go to them at Christmas / New Year
– Aussie soap stars go to the UK for them
– If an actor says “Oh no it’s not” the audience replies with “Oh yes it is” and this gets repeated several times.

Humour me for a minute and let’s pretend that an alien spaceship has picked you up. You’re flying through space when an alien, let’s call him Allen, explains they are going to let you off somewhere on Earth. Allen lands and you disembark, with no idea which country you are in. You just happen to land in the audience of a pantomime. You can only be in Britain.

I am certain pantomimes exist in other countries, although I have never come across one before. But watching this today was just so, so British. Having said that, it starred Dame Edna (yay!) so one of the numbers was Waltzing Matilda. It was fantastic – although it’s odd hearing a stirring rendition of it without anyone joining in. Sorry to be a spoilsport but I wasn’t going to.

I now know there are certain elements that are particular to pantos. Do you like how I say “panto” like a regular?

– There is always a goody and a baddy. The goody enters from stage right, the baddy from stage left. When you see the baddy, you have to boo and hiss.
– There is usually a character that is an animal of some kind. Today there was a cat and I’ve got to tell you, it was a pretty crappy part. The lines went like this, “Meeow” “Meeeeeeoooooww” or a gentle mewing sound. You’d be pissed off if you landed that gig after three years at RADA.
– It is not uncommon for one or more characters to be a dwarf. This will prompt jokes like “where did he go?” And there I was thinking Britain was very PC.
– At some stage, an actor will say something along the lines of “where is it?” The audience then says “Look behind you!” and there is much laughter as the thing being sought after moves whenever the character searching for it turns around. Although having said that, there was none of it today. Can I get my money back?
– There will be some very unsubtle cross dressing.

We saw this in our local theatre and I was seriously impressed. It was cheesy, there was a pun a minute and it was a real spectacle. It was very, very funny and to be honest, a bit strange. Plus I love Dame Edna. She’d make little quips about not having a clue what the panto genre is about and “that’s the first time genre has been said in a panto, oh I’m meant to say that in rhyme. How annoying.”

Next on the list is to go to a football (soccer) game. Preferably not one where I get beaten up for wearing the wrong colour. My husband said I can go with him “if you don’t embarrass me.” I have no idea what he means. But still, exciting!

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