Seasonal delays

It is so hard sometimes to find the time to write a blog, but I do miss it when I don’t.

With the run-up to Christmas, and especially working part time in a primary school, it becomes crazy. I’ve been to a Nativity play (strongly based on Call the Midwife!), I’ve been decorating paper stockings, reindeer and Santas coming out of chimneys for library displays, I’ve been reading some Christmas books with the children (which I will share!) and today we went to the Pantomime as a whole school.

This is always a mammoth exercise in planning and health and safety assessments as we walk nearly all our children nearly 2 miles to the theatre. I accompanied some year ones today and they were very excited about the experience … and exhausted by the time we returned! I think it’s lovely that the whole school goes so that it’s a really big event for everyone to share and look forward to.

The panto was Aladdin, which I had high hopes for. Unfortunately, while the children seemed happy enough (which is the most important thing!) most of us adults felt it really lacked this year. Normally the ones we see here are very good but there was a change in writer and director and it was noticeable. And it made me think about the reasons why (beyond casting decisions, etc).

From reading and reviewing books, to my own storytelling training and experience as a writer, it’s interesting to see what works well or not on stage. From the moment the curtain went up, I felt the audience was pitched into confusion – there was  backstory being told by a couple of characters but for some odd reason, they decided to distort the voices. While this can be effective when used briefly, it is hopeless when trying to convey important information. I thought perhaps I was going deaf or becoming old and set in my ways but others felt confused too. And the sometimes narrator, sometimes fairy (who usually plays a good character in pantos) seemed to be linked with the baddy so we were confused whose side she was on… if any. And, to be honest, what her role really was. She had a lovely voice – far superior to the lead female’s – but what she was meant to do … well I just didn’t get it.

Having just done a month’s performance training in storytelling, I was looking forward to seeing the techniques utilised on stage but the main characters seemed flat and rather one-dimensional. The evil ones were great – they usually steal the show – as was the Great Dame. But the goodies were characters that the adults failed to engage with. Differentiation in tone of voice was missing, and I found the so-called feminist princess irritating rather than inspiring. Oh dear…

The first half went on for over an hour by which point, lots of children were squirming for the loo. When the curtain went up for the interval, the children assumed it was time to leave. We told them we still had the second half and their little faces fell somewhat. The second half was much better actually but it was such a shame that the first half was so flat. There just wasn’t enough craziness, exuberance and feistiness that makes a panto so much fun.

I must admit I was relieved when other people commented on it. I was worrying during the first half that I had become boring and middle-aged (well, I am middle-aged but I hate to combine that with boring). I didn’t feel inspire to cheer because to be honest, there weren’t many opportunities except to howl like a dog when the dog came on stage. I thought perhaps I had finally grown up and become serious.

But the dancing opportunity that came at the end was a huge relief. I was happy to stand up and embarrass myself with all the little ones and I realised that I still had a lot of growing up to do.

Have you been to any pantos this year? Please tell me what they’ve been like!





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