Friday, December 28, 2012

A CRAP Panto

When I was a child, going to see the Christmas pantomime was one of the highlights of the festive season. It was a chance to see friends, to wear new clothes (typically something from the knitwear family) and there was always ice cream in the interval.

The theatre would be packed out with excited children clutching programs and ever so slightly tipsy adults who had enjoyed the offerings of the pre-theatre bar.

I remember carefully navigating the plush red seating until we found our spot taking in the elaborate decorations and soaking up the joyful atmosphere.

There are several key elements to a good pantomime – the Dame (such as Widdow Twankey), always played by a man (of course!). The principal boy (such as Aladdin), always played by a woman (well, der!) and a massive amount of audience participation in the form of booing, cheering and most importantly ‘He’s behind you!!’s

Inevitably, the story would reach a pivotal moment in which the audience must save the day. I remember yelling myself horse trying to convey the location of the ‘baddy’ (er, “He’s behind you!”) and the shear relief when the ‘goody’ rides in to saves the day.

My dad loved Panto so much, that together with some other parents from our village he formed the ‘Chigwell Row Amateur Players’ (yes… that is CRAP) and put on an annual production in the Church Hall.

Everyone in the community would get involved; the children would help paint sets, the local PTA (Parent Teacher Association) would help with refreshments (also raising money for the local school) and on the day of the show all and sundry would turn up to boo and cheer and ‘he’s behind you!’

One year, fancying myself as a budding actress (er, or perhaps a bit of a drama queen) I begged my dad to give me a role in that year’s production, Aladdin. I was cast as the Genie (a speaking part!) and diligently attended rehearsals, which took place in the chilly hall on Monday evenings. I think I was about 14. I would take along my art homework and sit sketching various things as the rest of the company read lines and larked about on stage.

I wasn’t allowed to go to the pub after rehearsals (which I now suspect was the whole point of CRAP), my dad would drop me off at home and more often than not I’d go straight to bed, exhausted from my performance and all that sketching.

I had a pink silk costume and gold shoes. I appeared in a puff of smoke and stood with my arms crossed before me. I don’t remember my lines… (If I were to hazard a guess I reckon I said something about three wishes) but I do remember the butterflies in my tummy and the smell of the stage make up and the sound of applause.


I wont be attending a Pantomime this year (er, because it’s not a thing here in Australia… grr you Aussies!) but no doubt I’ll get my fix as I chase G round the changing rooms of our local swimming pool with twenty or so ladies yelling “She’s behind you!”

19 comments:

  1. You make a great genie! Love the pose. What a wonderful Christmas memory to have.

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  2. It is such a shame the panto has not caught on here. I used to love them!!

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  3. I've never seen a pantomime before. It sounds like fun!

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  4. What a great family/cultural tradition. Fred went to one here just before Christmas - the Princess and the Pea - it didn't have all the elements of the traditional Christmas one, but he loved it anyway - there's definitely an audience for the one you describe :)

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  5. I'd love to see a really Panto. You have made it sound like so much fun. Rachel xx

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  6. That sounds like such an awesome tradition. I wish we had them here in Australia too now! Our dance school put on a performance of the Nutcracker this year, which was nice and Christmassy.

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  7. That's a lovely memory. Thank you for sharing it! Xxx

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  8. What a great memory - such a shame we don't have pantomimes in Australia. We have theatre, but that's so stoic, hardly the same. :(

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  9. ohh so cute! I miss pantomines too! I remember going to one when I was little in Primary school.. in Australia! I remember because I lost my shoe on the way to the performance and my teacher told me off! :)

    They don't do them anymore I do not think.

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  10. hahahaha! She's behind you.
    I've heard of the pommy pantomimes. Mainly because people from Neighbours used to act in them. I wish we had them here.
    Lovely memories for you.
    Leanne @ Deep Fried Fruit

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  11. Another thing I miss about the UK! I would love to take my son one day. I was just talking about panto this morning to an Aussie friend. I think she understood what I was talking about? x

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  12. Very funny - and I bet you're right in regards to the real reason CRAP was started! Great pic ;)

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  13. I'd only heard of pantomimes before as it seemed every Aussie soap star used to go over to the UK at Christmas to star in one! What a fun tradition though - I'm not sure why we don't do that here, taking your kids to an air conditioned location to see an interactive show sounds like a great deal of fun to me on a hot Aussie day...!

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  14. Ha ha! Love the photo. You do make a fine genie!
    We used to have pantomimes in most shopping centres during school holidays, but they don't seem to do it so much anymore. It's a shame, really. :)
    xx

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  15. we need a bloggy panto. Fo shizzle.

    Probably something involving a troll under a bridge...

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  16. I so wish we had this tradition in Australia! Those pink MC Hammer pants are the BOMB, C! Do you still have them? ;)

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  17. Good memories there C. I remember as a kid seeing a pantomime in a theatre with a Dame and a Boy thingy and calling out "he's there behind you" but I am very very old and it was possibly before TV came to Oz in 1956!
    Our history as teachers in the country saw Hub form the Hillston Amateur players (HAPS as opposed to your CRAPs) and they did mostly Gilbert and Sullivan & some song/dance reviews. We loved it.

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  18. oooh I do miss Panto season, this time of year I'm missing an awful lot about the UK.

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  19. Catherine, your amazing charisma comes through in this post (yet again). I know of pantos... I lived in Ireland for awhile, and it was very much part of the Christmas tradition... and I couldn't help but think that us Aussies have missed out so much on something so fun! xx

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