Tuesday, 5 January 2016

It's the panto season!

One of the cast member of the musical society I used to be part of (technically I'm still part of it, I just haven't done a show in 6 years...) wrote that message on a handmade bookmark and gave it to me after our last representation of "Jack and the beanstalk". Believe me, I had no idea what I was letting myself into before I agreed to take part in a panto. I didn't even know what a panto was.

I used to do drama as a teenager and when I moved to Ireland, I naturally integrated a musical and drama society. It was a great way to meet Irish people and pursue my passion. The big difference with French drama groups is that the Irish are a bit obsessed with musical comedies... and I'm not a great singer or dancer. But I gave it a shot and even though I was always part of the chorus (no way I was going to sing or dance on my own) I had a great time being on stage. That "panto" thing was a whole different experience. Not a bad one, but certainly one I'll remember forever.

A pantomime is a type of musical comedy, loosely based on famous fairytales and designed for family entertainment. It's always performed around Christmas and New year, and includes famous songs (usually rearranged to suit the theme), dancing, cross-dressing characters, kids (lots of them!) and interaction with the audience is at the core of the performance. There is also a big comedy element with jokes relating to current affairs or double-meaning (you need something for the parents too!). Basically, as the Irish would say, it's great craic!

"Ding Dong the witch is dead, which old witch, the wicked witch!" and "Good morning, Good morning, we danced the whole night through, Good morning, Good morning to you!" regularly stick in my head for a while whenever I hear the word "panto". And the choreography? Thank God that part has been erased from my memory a long time ago. I only remember being so stressed about it that I used to rehearse in the break room at work (when I was alone of course).

It takes hard work to be funny. And rehearsals for pantos can get so serious you want to cry. OK, I might be exaggerating a bit, but seriously, all the fun you see on stage is prepared, rehearsed and choreographed with millimetre accuracy.

The run up to the show is hectic. You have little spare time for a couple of weeks before and literally no life the week of the show. And all of that happens during Christmas. At least you're keeping fit in between the wine, the turkey and the Quality street tins...

But you know what, hard work paid off and I  had a great time on stage on every representation: the adrenaline before the curtain opened, the rush throughout the whole performance and the feeling of satisfaction at the end.

So no, I was not put off panto for life. I just needed a few years to recover, and I might even take part in another one some day...

If you want to go to a panto, there is still time, you can check that listing to help you choose.

Enjoy the show!