In Praise of the Great British Panto

It’s not that the Am Dram performance of Cinderella was bad. It’s just that the appearance of small children dressed as traffic cones was perplexing.

I’m sure one of the traffic cones did a backflip while the rest sang ‘Bob the Builder’. Relevant to the plot? No. Impressive? Absolutely!

I wondered while watching Buttons sing a full four-minute version of OMI’s ‘Cheerleader’ for no reason at all whether anybody outside of the UK has ‘go to panto’ on their list of things to do over Christmas.

I wondered, while watching the ugly sisters do a Spice Girls routine that we are still trying to explain to the children (“what is the Spice Girls Mummy?”) if anyone outside of the UK would comprehend why we were having such a good time.

It was wobbly and stuttery and the feedback from the mics when members of the cast stood too close to each other nearly perforated our eardrums. Most other nations would have surely demanded their money back. We Brits? We were in am-dram panto heaven.

We got to boo, and hiss, and sing, and shout, ‘it’s behind you’

We got to eat loads of fruit pastilles and get ice cream at the interval and tell the 5 year old at least 20 times not to kick the seat of the lady in front of us.

We got squirted with water pistols, and had rabbit poo thrown at our heads, and were sprinkled liberally with fairy dust. Oh, how we laughed.

The boys had a lesson in either irony or sod’s law when one of the younger members of the dancing troop actually did lose her slipper. She then spent the rest of the dance routine grappling centre stage trying to get her ballet pump back on.

While she wrangled with her shoes we, the audience, got to marvel at the wonders of the human body in all its forms as it cavorted around her: the little, the large, the fat, the thin, the short, the tall, the agile, the two left feet-ed, the amazing singers and the tone-deaf.

The cast had nothing in common other than they were all a little unsure of the dance moves. Perhaps it’s this that in an odd way held everything together so delightfully.

Eventually, about 2 hours after it all began, came the finale. Buttons led us all through a random version of ‘Show Me The Way To Amarillo’ while the rest of the cast had a quick change into their white, sparkly, ‘last song’ outfits.

Then, one by one down the staircase came the cast as they sang a Beyonce – Halo/ Katrina and the Waves – Walking on Sunshine mash-up which, surprisingly, almost worked. All of us cheered.

Finally, down the staircase came Cinderella in resplendent sparkly glory.

The 4-year-old looked dumbstruck in the face of all this glittery beauty. The 7 year old clapped, beside himself with excitement. The 5-year-old fell off his chair and head-butted the lady in front.

It was the perfect end to the perfect show.

As we got into the van to go home the 4-year-old, shattered after all he had just witnessed, looked at me with his wide-eyed baby blues and said,

“I love Cinderella Mummy”

And even though it was all rather naff, you know what?

So do I!



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