Thursday, January 11, 2007

Panto changed my life, oh yes it did.

Tuesday night we went along to the pantomine at the Theatre Royal in York. Being a lover of vaudeville and music hall, panto is one of the highlights of my year. I don't have many. The pantomine is a great British art form which has been sadly debased by bastard Aussie soap-stars and rubbish boxers whose names apparently put bums on seats in struggling provincial theatres. They have turned what should be a deviant bit of charivari style seasonal madness into an aneamic middle-of-the-road borefest. Here in York we have two pantos. One at our elegantly decaying "Grand" Opera House is pretty much in the latter category. This year it features Sid Little and a fat bloke who used to be in Brookside. Meanwhile at the Theatre Royal we have the absolute daddy of Pantos. Run as a benevolent dictatorship for 28 years by jobbing actor Berwick Kaler it features not a single household name, b,c,or, d-lister just a carefully nurtured repetoire of actors who know or at least learn how to do the genre justice. It's full of adlibs, surreal flights of fancy and lots of humour for the adults as well as the kids. The Guardian and The Times put it in their top three pantos in the UK, and the Independent made it their numero uno. Not bad for a little provincial theatre. People now travel from all over the place just to visit the York Theatre Royal Panto. On Tuesday night we had a New Zealander and a Fijian in the audience, and a couple of rows in front of us a French couple discussed amongst themselves what the hell they thought was going on.
This year it was Cinderella, but that is largely by-the-by. People go year on year to watch the interaction between the main players who are now a much loved part of peoples annual Christmas and New Year festivities. We went to our first one in 1995, before we lived here when we'd been staying for a few nights at a B&B in Clifton in the early New Year. We were both students at the time and passing the theatre we popped in for a coffee. One of the ladies who worked at the box office asked us if we'd be interested in a couple of standby tickets for that evenings panto. For the princely sum of just £3. We couldn't really refuse and had a fantastic evening, aided in no small part by several rum and cokes at the bar before we went in. We talked about how brilliant it had been for ages. Shortly after that I think we both decided if we could we'd come and live in York as it had a cool panto amongst it's many other attractions. Then in July of that year I rented myself a place to live, got my dad to put my computer, my clothes and my writers yearbook in the car and here I came. I think my parents thought I'd probably last about six months. A couple of months later Rachel joined me and that has been pretty much that ever since. Not going to the panto would just be plain wrong. It's like being part of a big mad cackling family for a couple of hours. If you're ever this way over Christmas and the New Year, go see it. You'll enjoy it. I promise.

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