Early January and another panto season is over.
This Christmas I performed in my 3rd pantomime, ‘Cinderella’ at the Pomegranate Theatre, Chesterfield, playing Prince Charming.
Panto is something I have always wanted to do and I can genuinely say, it is the most fun and rewarding job you could possibly do each Christmas.
I’ve learned a lot about pantomime traditions over the past few years, and how it is a massive business for theatres, actors, dancers and the local community too.
I’m sure we’ve all been to see a panto at some point. It’s a very British tradition stretching back many many years and generations. My first memory of panto was watching Russ Abbot a good few years back now, that’s where it all started for me, now to be the person on stage performing in what could be a child’s first ever panto, or even their first time to a theatre, that is very special.
I feel very privileged to be part of people’s christmases each year. The Christmas eve shows have such a special feel about them. The front rows get booked up by the same families each year, as early as December the previous year to guarantee their Christmas tradition.
We all know the script, ‘he’s behind you’, ‘oh no he’s not’, ‘oh yes he is’. The hapless Buttons trying to win the heart of Cinderella before Prince Charming ruins it for him and steals his beautiful best friend. You always see the panto cast switching on the Christmas lights in the town the show is on, usually to a few cries of ‘who on earth is that in the daft costume’, *googles panto cast and sees it’s someone off Big Brother 8 years ago*.
Pantomime is in no way an easy job to do. This Christmas, we performed the show 51 times in just over 4 weeks, you do the maths. I’m always asked by friends around October if I’ve started rehearsals yet, no, we have about 10-11 days rehearsal before the first show! It’s a chaotic coffee fuelled time for all the cast, crew and creatives before the first show.
The first show day is a magical day when you just about know the script, songs and dance moves. Then the show starts and you have an audience! All the hard work pays off, you get laughs to your jokes (hopefully not your dancing), laughs to things you didn’t even know were supposed to be funny too!
After 2 days, the whole cast know the show back to front and could do it in their sleep, that’s when the show goes from strength to strength, getting more polished and slick day on day. Chemistry between the cast on stage grows, songs get tighter and stronger, dances are more in time and jokes become even funnier with their delivery.
As a performer in the show you get to work with lots of fun and talented people each year. You become like a family, so close after living in each others pockets for 5-7 weeks, working, eating, socialising and sometimes living with each other. If you ever watch the last performance of a panto run, you will see such emotion at the final curtain call with everyone on stage dreading saying goodbye to each other, ‘post panto blues’ is not a fun time in January each year. If you see an actor in January who has just finished panto, give them a big hug and tell them everything is going to be ok.
Here’s to many more pantos and the great British public keeping this wonderful and fun tradition alive.
For a few photos from my show this year, click here.
Lots of love