Christmas in a bi-national home is pretty standard. Many of the traditions from either side of the Atlantic cross over with very little difference. There are few little touches that don’t make the transition (like specific TV Christmas special episodes) but the baubles, food and events are the same. There is only one major difference.
It involves crossdressing, same-sex couples and furries and seems pretty unique to this island (with some seepage to the fair flung corners of the Commenwealth)
That’s right, it’s Christmas and that can mean only one thing…Panto!
Panto is a very British export (and is only really found in the remnants of empire – so it’s a bit like cricket, but seems to last longer) and may seem strange at first, but it is a microcosm of all British humour.
It is also a cross generational event where adults and grand-adults can cheer and boo at strangely dressed people without feeling bad. It’s positively encouraged, and is a great way to feel like a five year old again.
What is panto? Basically fat men in dresses, scatological jokes and heavy doses of innuendo. Any panto follows the same basic plot points:
- Base it on an existing fairytale. It is mostly likely to be Cinderella, Snow White, Dick Whittingham or Aladdin. Strangely I’ve yet to hear of a Littlest Matchgirl or Little Tin Soldier pantomime, I guess the idea of the central protagonist melting in flames is a bit too much for the tiny one
- The main male lead is played by a woman, not sure why (afterallinShakespeares time Juliet was played by a young boy…so I guess it’s down to the women’s lib movement). They’ll generally be a diminutive blonde thing which a talent in thigh slapping and making dad’s feel slightly uncomfortable when looking at Prince Charming and noticing his attractive legs in those tights.
- What makes this especially awkward is that the male lead will often fall in love with another character also played by a woman. More awkward shifting in seats for Dads.
- To balance the gender diversification out there has to be a dame. A great big flamboyant one with a thousand costume changes and enough makeup to keep Max Factor in business. This is one of the most desired roles in all theatre as most of the other charactersinthepanto are bland cutouts designed to move from scene to scene. If the dame is bad then the panto fails, that’s why you get people like Gandalf to be one.
- Innuendo, a fantastic word that is like a descriptive onomatopoeia. The tiny ones won’t have a clue when someone asks to stroke Dick’s (Whittinghams) pussy or when an ugly sisters claims “it’s a bit big but I’ll force it in”. Panto is a My First Carry On film for Brits, and is only one step away from what the butler saw.
- “Oh no it isn’t”, the tradition of audience participation in Panto is long and historied but basically boils down to booing the villain and going “awwww” whenever something sad happens (but bear in mind however loud you boo or aww it will never be loud enough on the first attempt and will require the dame to complain they can’t hear you. This is why I always try to run on stage and scream it in their ear…hear me roar!)
- Animals are as important to panto as they are to the merchandising department of a Disney movie. Most likely it will be a pantomime horse or cow two grown adults in a costume – which includes the anti-dame role of the back-end of the horse, a position nobody wants.
- Ever since Neighbours and Home and Away moved from the main terrestrial channels to the signal backwater that is Channel 5 there has been a crisis in panto land as the number of identifiable Australian soap stars that filled the main roles in the 80’s and 90’s is now being replaced with ex-reality stars with no acting ability…unlike the antipodean starlets that we used to have. Any big panto has to have either Brain Connelly, Bobby Davro or Cannon and Ball. Otherwise it’s just a fancy AmDram production.
What are your thoughts on aging? How will you stay young at heart as you get older?
Source: Young At