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.