Poor old pantomime.
Long miscast as the beleaguered brussel sprout of festive entertainment, it's a subject guaranteed to split a room faster than you can shout: "He's behind you".
I've lost count of the cultural snobs I've seen wrinkle their noses in disgust whenever the p-word is mentioned. Frankly, though, they don't know what they're missing. Men dressed as women, women dressed as men, gloriously camp villains, wicked double entendres and sweeties thrown into the audience. What's not to love?
One of my earliest memories of panto was as a seven-year-old on a school trip to the King's Theatre in Edinburgh. While I can't recall much about the show itself – although it was Cindereall, I believe – nothing could extinguish the sense of exhilaration which came from catching one of the coveted hard-boiled sweets hurled into the stalls by the cast. I kept it firmly in my coat pocket all the way home, where I proudly presented it to my mother.
Aside from a sabbatical in my teens – when I considered myself too cool to do anything except hang out in my friend's bedroom and listen to the Stone Roses – pantomime has remained an annual pilgrimage.
I think I've pretty much covered the entire panto compendium from Aladdin to Snow White – and everything in between.
It's a passion I've now been fortunate enough to be able to share with my eight-year-old nephew. On the last occasion we attended I spent almost as much time watching his enthralled face as I did the on-stage action. Seeing his eyes dance, mouth agape, as he took in the unfolding scene below was magical – although he did gripe that our fancy seats up in the dress circle were a bit too fa away to catch a sweetie.
He may have had a point ...
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