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An Open Appeal to My Fellow Scrooges: Take Some Time out for Panto This Year

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PANTOMIME DAME
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We are well and truly in the thick of the festive period and I openly despise it. Not only because it's cold and getting colder, but because every year sometime around early December, I realise that everywhere I go and everything I look at has, as if by magic, suddenly become Christmas themed.

Pop along to the local Italian and there's a full turkey dinner on the specials board. Sit in and watch telly and there's not just any Christmas advert, there's a vomit-inducing, musical, M&S Christmas advert. And god forbid should any of your loved ones have a birthday during this time! Good luck finding any form of greetings card that doesn't in some way feature Santa, a snowman, some holly, or warm interiors with open fires.

My birthday is Christmas Eve. I have received 25 years' worth of birthday presents wrapped in snowflake paper, I should know.

If you haven't already worked it out, i'm a bit of a scrooge. I don't do Christmas fever. I don't do standing around warming my cold hands on cups of mulled wine. And I certainly don't do stupid bloody Santa hats. So you can imagine my horror at being threatened with a pantomime?

"No." Was my immediate verbal response. A wave of nervous nausea was the physical reaction.

"Will. Not. Do. Pantomime." Was the conclusion.

I won't bore you with the details of how I lost my resolve, but this week, I did in fact get dragged down to watch a pantomime. And you know what? I bloody loved it.

Maybe i'm just getting old, or maybe panto's getting younger, but Cinderella at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East really blew my mind.

Who knew that pantomime was no longer a Christmassy assault on the senses, eh? Who knew that one of the ugly sisters had a booty to rival Serena Williams and moves that put Beyonce to shame? Who knew that the fairy godmother was actually a feisty Caribbean lady, come back from the afterlife to "cook up a storm"? And who the hell knew that Prince Charming was a gorgeous mixed race chap with the most intense golden afro I've ever witnessed?

NOT ME, that's for sure. (Oh and Craig Storrod, if you're reading this, I love you. We could be good together. Tweet me.)

The thing about this particular panto, was that despite my best intentions (I arrived as scrooge, huffing and puffing at the annoying people forcing me out of my seat to get to their own) I found myself laughing. Constantly. And not just a LOL. I'm talking a big, rip roaring, two hours worth of ROFLMFAO. Even the obligatory evil pantomime dame (Michael Bertenshaw) who is normally more drag than queen, was gut achingly hilarious, fabulous and wrong all at once.

I had promised myself that even if I did enjoy it, there was no way I was going to get involved in all the over enthusiastic panto crap (cue: "He's behiiinnnd you!") but there I was, booing the evil step-mother and getting miffed when the huge balloons filled with glitter (that were being volleyed across the theatre at the end of the interval) never quite came my way. I blame the constant giggles of joy and screams of delight coming from in front of me and to the right. There is something about children's laughter that is annoyingly infectious.

The whole production was almost worryingly engaging, there wasn't a scene that didn't include some sort of relevant cultural reference, as mentions of "Rihanna" and "Little Mix" were interspersed with characters like Sugary and Spicy, the ugly sisters double act that could have been plucked straight out of a scene from The Only Way is Essex. Don Dini (the Prince's wingman) was even kitted out in brothel creepers...you literally cannot get more current than that.

It seems that pantomime is no longer the antiquated story, revived, like I had imagined. In fact everything from the acting to the choreography felt young, multi cultural and fresh. Cinderella felt to me, like a whole new way of story telling in pantomime, seamlessly encapsulating everything that was pop about 2011. And most importantly, it did so without the use of a single piece of tinsel, minced pie, reindeer, or any other festive symbolism.

I guess you could say that I released my inner child this week and in doing so reminded myself that even if I'm not so bothered, the kid in me still loves Christmas. Go and watch Cinderella this year, it's worth it for the Rasta mouse alone...don't ask. Just go.

And get a bit of Christmas in your belly before it's too late, and you all die with a permanent scowl on your faces.

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