Going to see a pantomine at Christmas seems like a largely British tradition – and one Freya will be enjoying for the first time this week.
Oh, no she won’t.
Oh, yes she will.
She really will – and frankly that surprises me because I’ve always been a bit ‘bah humbug’ about the whole experience. I felt that if I’d wanted to be involved in a production I would have joined my local amateur dramatic society.
I know part of it was borne out of my years as a trainee journalist reviewing local Christmas productions for the newspaper. The panto dame saying “I believe we have a reporter from the local paper in the house,” was my cue to sink down low in my seat and pretend I was at home in my pjs watching EastEnders. I know, I was miserable back then!
That’s not to say I’m not a fan of amdram. I am. I have seen some wonderful plays with genuinely talented casts but panto season was NOT the highlight of my year.
And yet, here I am, not only taking Freya to a panto…
Oh, no I’m not.
Oh…you get the picture.
…but one that is even more “interactive” than normal and “puts the audience at the centre of the action”. What’s more, I’m actually looking forward to it. I can only think that I have mellowed with age – and certainly since becoming a parent (when every day feels a bit like a pantomime) .
As we plodded around the park the other morning, I was chatting to my running buddy about the subject. She has been writing a story on the history of panto and was telling me about its roots. There is a lot more involved that I ever suspected.
Apparently, while it is the Victorians we have to thank for the art form we know today, its origins can be traced back to “commedia dell’arte” (I really like saying that). It translates to “theatre of the professional” and is a 16th-century Italian entertainment featuring a cast of mischievous characters.
While I might not have heard of that term before, I am certainly familiar with some of the stock characters which we now see in modern panto (and in soaps and many other areas), such as Columbine, the love interest, Pierrot, the sad clown who is pining for her, Harlequin, the quick-witted scoundrel who often steals her away.
It was when thinking about the characteristics of the panto dame that my eyes narrowed. Hold on a minute, this all sounds very familiar. I wonder if its based on a three-year-old?
Here are five ways Freya reminds me of a panto dame.
- Oh, the drama. Often even the simplest of requests, such as getting dressed, is accompanied by a grand gesture – falling to the floor in a heap, hiding behind a curtain or running around in circles, for example.
- Lots of ‘oh no I didn’t, oh yes you did’ or ‘oh no I won’t, oh yes you will’, throughout the day.
- She is desperate to wear make up and not just make up but ALL the make up (as I wear very little I’m not sure who to blame for this). I have no doubt it would look very similar to the dame if I let her at it.
- If she picks her own outfit it will quite often involve many many layers of clothes that have no business being together but do have some comedy value for those looking on.
- She requires audience participation in everything she does.
Occasionally I also think she would make a pretty good villain, particularly as her dastardly deeds are often accompanied by a sinister soundtrack (which she provides herself) and a wicked cackle the moment before she attempts whatever tinkerish pursuit it happens to be (usually involving climbing something she shouldn’t).
Anyway, I think Freya is going to love it, especially as it’s geared for a younger audience. It will hopefully set her up for future visits to the theatre or cinema.
Are you a panto fan? Oh, no you’re not…Yeah, I’ll stop now.