We have relatives in from out of town. They flew all the way over the ocean to see us, and the very first thing I did was drag them to the panto. Well, I let them take showers, first. I do have standards. I know, I’m seventeen kinds of cruel, but be honest, is there a better way to jump in to the dynamics of English culture than a night at the panto? Especially when you are already sleep deprived and semi-hallucinating?
What is the panto, you may ask? I’ll let wikipedia fill you in — or that awesome school in Kent has a page about the panto — or just google it because c’mon, do I need to do all the work around here? — but let me assure you: it is not mimes. It’s slapstick, vaudeville, shenanigans, cover songs, cross-dressing, small explosions, audience participation, and over-all child friendliness.
There was a fairy tale
A … disco ball?
A … dancing cow?
Not pictured are the heroine (pretty), the hero (a woman playing a boy), the villain (also a woman), a crowd of young actors, and some kind of Fool character who gets my vote for Hardest Working Silly Person On Stage — Hellooooooo Billie!! Um, maybe you had to be there.
And a grand finale!
The audience participation was … I’m not sure I ever thought this would be an appropriate description for a British evening entertainment, but it was a hoot. The kids waved and sang and shouted, and even the proper (and elderly) couple seated next to me danced in their seats and called out “booo” to the villain and cheers to the hero.
Our local panto has a six week run and has been booked flat almost the entire time. I can see why. A couple hours of hilariously random entertainment that pleases young and old? Perfect.
I’ll let you know if the family is still speaking with me this morning.