By Mike Rampton
One of the best things about Christmas is the arrival of panto season, a great British tradition that leaves other countries flummoxed. Women wearing head-scratching mullets to play Peter Pan! Men in hi-shine, fire-hazard polyester, before the arrival of
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3) Interactivity: a complex beast
Audience interaction is a huge part of the panto experience – “He’s behind you!” is a staple, after all – but the rules can be tricky to figure out. If you’re used to watching telly together and chatting along through it (“Look darling, Duggee’s wearing body paint now! Do you think Duggee used to do a lot of pills?”), a theatre environment is a bit different.
You can’t just chunter on through it all (“Look, that person’s fallen over and hurt their bottom! I expect their bottom is very sore now”), but at the same time, you must constantly be ready to join in with a bit of mass shouting. It’s complicated, but toddlers can work iPads. They’re secret geniuses, they’ll figure it out.
4) Remember, you can always just step out
This one obviously only works if someone is there to attend to your kids. But say you’re going to the loo, and just go and stand in the foyer and breathe deeply for a minute or so.
5) Lasting out the whole show
Young children aren’t famed for their attention spans, and pantomimes can be a bit lacking in the quick-cut, whiz-bang, high-octane entertainment department, especially when compared to, say Transformers: Robots In Disguise on Netflix. People standing on a stage, even in wacky costumes, just don’t measure up.
Fortunately, the people who organise pantomimes tend to be aware of such things – for every two-and-a-half-hour epic like the Hackney Empire’s Dick Whittington, there’s a more digestible 45-minute one.
Or, try and run a bunch of energy out beforehand, and let the whole “large dark room” thing take over. Sure, if they pass out 15 minutes in you’ve paid £12 for your child to have a nap, but the hell with it, right?
It’s Christmas. Eat your sweets and enjoy the show. God bless us, every one.