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Squeaky clean pantomime fun for the whole family
A purely British institution performed around Christmas time, the Pantomime is a theatrical experience that every family aught to make an annual tradition. With plenty to choose from, most regional theatrical societies host a version, with the more lavish (and expensive) ones being performed in the larger centres, such as London. My family recently attended a smaller production and would recommend others to discover and enjoy regional theatre as a cost effective, yet still professional theatrical experience.
The Mother Goose Pantomime is currently being performed at Salisbury Playhouse in Wiltshire until the 10th of January. With an audience appeal from 3 to 103, theatre goers will be completely entranced the entire time.
Mother Goose and Pricilla dance
Though most pantomimes rely on having a celebrity as the star act, what can be admired is the ethos of Salisbury Playhouse and they way they present pantomimes. They have no faded soap stars, include live music, are extremely children-centred (always including cute puppets to ease tiny fears in scenes which might be a little scarier), have plenty of silly bum and knicker jokes, but no filthy jokes meant for adults only. The inclusion of young performers added the "ahh-factor" and making it even more accessible to shyer young theatre goers.
Based on the Italian comedia dell'arte, a pantomime has plenty of slapstick and physical comedy rolled up with bawdy banter, songs and dance, often with a local twist and often referencing television or cultural events from the year.
What really sets it apart from 'normal' styles of theatre is the audience participation; something that I doubt would work or occur anywhere else in the world. Most characters have a key action or word that they illicit a response from the audience with. Everyone knows that when the baddy comes in everyone boos and hisses. When a character begins an argument with "Oh no I don't", the audience yells "Oh yes you do". Other instances include characters hiding and only the audience can see them, yelling " They are behind you!" and sighing and sympathising when a character is poor or is having a bad time with "Awwwww".
Pantomimes run along a set storyline with a dame, who is normally very poor (and played by a man) with a young man (played by a woman) who has a love interest. There is a battle of good against evil, with a moralistic message, culminating in temptation and good finally triumphing, ending with a wedding or a party. Other ingredients include a 'messy' scene where two or more characters get extremely wet or messy with gags on the audience of fake buckets of water. Reflective of the Greek and Italian Comedia Dell'arte performances, the 'good' characters enter the stage on the right ( symbolising Heaven) and the 'baddies' entering from the left ( symbolising Hell).
Mother Goose is sent in the village of Codswallop where its dame, Mother Goose finds herself in dire financial strife. Although she leads a frugal and good life, she is behind on her rent and her family is threatened with eviction. Fairy Flutter grants a wish to change the fortunes of this good woman; however the evil Demonica Badegg attempts to alter this with the temptations of fame and beauty. The audience is taken on a journey from Stonehenge to the South Pole and back again to ensure that good overcomes bad.
I particularly enjoyed the slapstick humour and the nod to the Laurel and Hardy skit of the wallpaper glue. as well as Mother Goose and Squire Dillydally's interpretation of Torvill and Dean's Bolero.
Messy Pantomime gags
Character performances were strong, comedic timing was smooth and practiced and best of all, the actors looked like they were enjoying themselves, rather than running on automatic.
A purely enjoyable experience for the entire family and one which aught not be overlooked.