My pantomime days are most certainly not behind me.
New Year’s Day – the natural end to the Christmas holiday checklist. What is this sad hollowness inside? I have season’s greeted, vegetated, mulled, cheesed… Yet, alas, there has been no pantomime trip.
Most of my Christmases past have traditionally included a viewing of Dick Whittington or Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood, upheld more out of a sense of continuation rather than genuine enthusiasm . 2015, however, came and went empty of any trifle-like wigs, outrageous drag and painful stabs at child and adult friendly comedy. On the stage anyway.
The younger brother I normally use as an excuse and an embarrassment buffer is now old enough to dismiss any suggestions of accompanying me before I make them. My long suffering grandparents now prefer to treat me to a night in playing card games when they visit instead. Friendless and alone in my panto ritual, I accepted defeat and moved on.
I went to see Wendy and Peter Pan at the RSC in Stratford a few weeks before Christmas and from there I was able to spin myself a lie about having already ticked the festive theatre visit box. It was undoubtedly a special show with the most detailed, storybook illustration-esque set (look at the holographic fairies that were strewn around the RSC building below) but it couldn’t ever really be a replacement for the pantomime. J.M Barrie’s imagining of childhood loss and grief is too beautiful and sad to be carnivalesque.
The other argument that I justified my absence on, that I am far too busy and dignified to be patronised by a line-up of soap-star Z-listers in fake tan and be surrounded by over-tired kids anyway, isn’t exactly bona fide. The truth is, I have access to a pretty foolproof theatre in the Nottingham Playhouse and one of the most longstanding pantomime dames in history. Kenneth Alan Taylor and his troop of merry men and women are a pretty hardcore set of panto veterans with a fantastic reputation and an infallible formula for laughter. Panto perfectionist/obsessive Mr Taylor has returned from retirement three times to continue directing his beloved Nottingham spectacular. Read all about him and his Miley Cyrus and Gangham Style themed shows here.
As if that wasn’t enough of a reality check, artist and filmmaker Jeanie Finlay’s documentary Panto! could win over most panto cynics. The film follows a Nottingham cast of amateur actors as they put on a community theatre production of Puss in Boots amongst hefty cuts to arts funding. It is sweet and fun and made for all the right reasons; enough to make me feel guilty and like I have missed out by not showing my support this year.
So I have learned my lesson the hard way. Now, the light-up windmill, marketed at small children, that I of course purchased for myself at my last pantomime sighting has been unearthed, ready to be brandished again.