In a strange ritual, we gather together at this time of year, to celebrate the coming of the tree and the decorating of the turkey. We don reindeer antlers and put on enormous sponge hands, to watch a tale oft told where there is always a man dressed as a woman and a woman dressed as a man known as the principal boy.
Yes, it’s panto time again. Invented in Greece, taken up by Rome, possibly related to mummers in medieval England, and considered a low form of opera during the restoration period.
There are now “traditional” pantos, “adult” pantos, “arty” pantos and “retro” pantos. We love a spot of campery. Can’t get enough of the stuff. Some actors are the same, and if there is ever a year that Christopher Biggins isn’t starring somewhere, we need to send him chicken soup and well-wishes.
While most of us shrink from the words “interactive theatre”, we are happy to oblige when we are require to shout: “He’s behind you” or “No it’s not.”
There was a time when the pantomime Dame would lob sweets into the audience, but “elf and safety” have done for that, so now we just get hoarse bellowing and go home with wands that flicker for a week before dying.
If you live in London, the options are endless. You can go to watch someone who once had a line in East Enders give her all in Cinderella, or watch a knight of the realm sporting massive breasts and doing his bit with Widow Twanky.
Cast your eye down some of the offerings… there’s Beauty and the Beast at the Shaw Theatre, Mother Goose at Watford Palace, Snow White And the Seven Poofs The Climax at the Green Carnation. That’s what you call a spread!
But based on past experience, I will be heading either to The Lyric Hammersmith where Sean Holmes is putting on Cinderella, to the Battersea Arts Centre for the alternative production Midnight’s Pumpkin or to Alice In Poundland which is fun, frolicking and pantomime on a barge in Battersea.
If you can’t cope with a lot of people being more childish than the children, you could always trot along on December 19th to watch Christmas with The Supreme Fabulettes at the Leicester Square Theatre, who will be singing – amongst other things – a song written for them by Boy George called “You Ruined My Christmas”.
Journalist/broadcaster Penny Smith @WhichPennySmith