It’s panto time this week. (Oh no, it isn’t). Oh yes, it really is my friends. Panto time again. Since the kids have started to become a little older – full and proper members of the pre-school collective, they have started to love, nay, adore, pantomimes. I say this as if it is something they have chosen to love, but it obviously could not have happened if I not taken them to see a panto in the first place. So, it’s pretty much my fault. I can’t even lay any blame at my husband’s door. He’s brutally honest about his hatred of pantos. So, unless the tickets are for a weekend show, I’m on my own.
I don’t remember loving pantomimes as a child. I remember going to them. I remember all the chanting and audience participation. I remember the cast chucking sweets into the audience and me being secretly crushed every time because they never landed on me. But I don’t remember loving them, the way my children do now. Perhaps it really is personal preference rather than an in-built sense of panto-love purely because they are children.
I opened the doors to a future of pantomimes when my daughter was about 3. During a nursery half term holiday, I took her to see a local showing of The Wizard of Oz. We only lasted the first half. The wicked witch person was too scary and we left at the interval. Not a success. Although, a very funny first half for the grown-ups, beginning with the scenery nearly falling over and then some horrendously bad warbling of Somewhere Over The Rainbow, followed by some inappropriate jokes. Later that year, we went as a wider family to see Peter Pan. This time we lasted the whole show and I think that was the moment my children decided that pantomimes were the future. Since then, we’ve seen The Wizard of Oz again (this time with a funny and not scary bad witch played by Cheryl Ferguson aka Heather Trott) and I now feel like we are seasoned pros, ready for the next show.
To be fair, the theatre we visit is a lovely little local theatre and the actors who write and star in the shows are under-rated and under-noticed. They don’t appear to be aiming for the big-time and they write funny little shows that entertain the kids and manage to keep the adults’ attention with a few blue jokes dotted around. I suppose it would be an idea to see pantomimes at other theatres. Mix it up a bit for the kids, but we are (I am) creatures of habit and we carry on doing what we’re comfortable with.
And I suppose, for all of my sneering at them, pantomimes are a lovely introduction to theatre for children. And as somebody who used to work for a world-famous theatre group, I saw first-hand how wonderful it was to be able to bring theatre to so many people and especially to young people. So perhaps I should look at this as the practice for later when I start taking them to theatre shows.
For now, I’m going to get my tickets out, get the Haribo and juice ready, and brace myself for the annual booing, hissing, and the secret hoping that the sweets will land on me.