Tag Archives: pantomime

A very London show

The stage was set (some painted pieces of fabric held up by wooden frames), the actors were ready (a travelling panto cast of 6 or 7), the audience waited (7 classes of primary school children ranging from 4 to 11 years old) and the orchestra started to play (a lady at the back with a MacBook). It was the school panto.

I must admit, I was slightly dubious when I found out that the panto was to be The Wizard of Oz. Never before had I heard of a film based pantomime. To my surprise though it was very good.

Yes the acting was hammy. Yes the set was more functional than stunning. Yes the music was very synth based. But I found myself singing along and clapping in all the right places.

The thing I didn’t expect was the reaction of the children. Don’t get me wrong, they very much enjoyed it, the problem was that they didn’t know what to do. Panto rules state that
1. If someone shouts ‘oh no they didn’t’ you response should be ‘oh yes they did’.
2. When the baddie comes on you boo, when the goodie comes on you cheer.
3. Clap along with the music whenever possible.
4. Direct the person on stage who is looking for someone, either ‘it’s behind you’ or ‘over there’ will do.
5. Fidget uncomfortably on your seat when the slow/love song comes on.

I often forget that working in a very deprived area means that the kids don’t get much. They had no idea what to do. Most of them have never been to the theatre, even for a pantomime. I now feel bad about my last post bemoaning the fact I had to attend 2 pantos a year.

I now realise how lucky I was, and even though I moaned a little at the time, hindsight (and the kids I teach) have taught me a valuable lesson.

In their defence, the kids did admirably with point 5 on my list of rules. Some things you just know.

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How very British.

How did it ever come about? Who sat there and thought ‘I know what we need to brighten up this festive season, let’s re tell a children’s story, stick in a fat man in a dress, add some none to clever innuendo, have the lead man played by a girl and call it all PANTOMIME.’

Oh no we shouldn’t, oh yes we should!

The panto. That time honoured yearly trip to the theatre. Love it or hate it, if you live on these shores you will have been to one at some point.

Here are my top 3 reasons to love/hate the panto.

1. It gives a creative outlet to those whose careers have dwindled. Where would ex heavyweight box Frank Bruno be? What would happen to all the old soap and kids TV presenters? The panto saves us, the taxpayer, a fortune in benefits to these struggling ex stars.

2. Audience participation. Up until the age of 14 I went to two pantos a year. Both sets of grandparents felt the one panto was not enough. It’s not that they didn’t speak to each other, it was more like a ‘ah your panto only has Rod Hull and Emu, Ours has Keith Harris, Orville AND cuddles (the same still happens now, they had a conversation a while back about who gets the worst wind after eating bananas). Any way, this indoctrination led me to shouting out in a Shakespeare play. ‘Romeo, Romeo, where for art thou Romeo’ ‘ He’s behind you!’

3. 1,000 screaming children. The kids love em. Even the coolest kid in class can’t help but get swept up in the screaming, shouting and call and response fun. It may also be, as was the case with me, the only chance they get to visit theatre. So for that I applaud the panto.

Today is panto day at school by the way. Will let you know how it went tomorrow.

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