It’s that time of year again: When grown men bedeck themselves in brightly coloured outrageous frocks and wigs, young ladies don breeches and over-the-knee boots, and women accessorise their pink frilly dresses with fairy wings and a magic wand. That’s right, boys and girls – IT’S PANTOMIME SEASON!
*Cue chorus from the audience of ‘OH NO IT ISN’T!’*
OH YES IT IS!
Ok, you get the point.
Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted my Mum and Dad to take me to the pantomime. I’d seen the posters outside the town hall on my way home from school, and listened to my best friend talking about rehearsals, learning the songs and mastering the dances for her starring role. In actual fact she was only in the chorus, but in my mind she was Cinderella herself.
For reasons unknown, a fairy godmother never waved her wand and granted me my wish of going to the pantomime. Perhaps she was worried about me turning into a pumpkin, but honestly, we’ll never know. It wasn’t until last year, when I went on a work outing to a local production that – ABRACADABRA! -I finally got my wish.
Pantos are everything that the festive season should be. Families spending time together away from the telly, singalongs and, of course, sweeties!
Yes, they might be cheesy, but for me that’s all part of the fun. Not only do the kids get to act like kids, the atmosphere transports adults away from the stresses of work, Christmas shopping, and school runs too. I went with a group of three grown ups, no children in tow, and we had as much fun as the little ones in the audience. We boo’d and hissed the baddies, cheered for Prince Charming and shouted ‘He’s behind you!’ with just as much gusto as the under 10s.
Theatres up and down the country open up their stage doors and dressing rooms for soap stars, childrens TV presenters and reality tv stars to join in the fun and get on stage, with Eastenders Steve McFadden, ‘Blue’ singer Antony Costa, and quiz maestro Ann Hegarty from ITV’s The Chase all appearing in panto this year.
I spoke to Paige Smith, 21, who works as an Optical Advisor by day and Cinderella by night at this time of year, and she told me that, far from being an easy ride, being a pantomime star is harder than a lot of other theatre performances.
“It’s one of the most challenging roles a performer could have, because of the interaction and improvisation with the audience. If you don’t get the reaction you want, you can struggle. You have to be prepared for the unexpected.”
Despite the hard work alongside a full-time day job, Paige tells me that being in panto is the most fun she’s had on stage, and that getting involved with the audience makes for a cheery performance- especially with the pantomime dames working alongside her.
So, drop the bah humbug routine – never mind if you’ve no kids to drag along – and make a panto date pronto. Just be careful not to lose your glass slipper.