Thursday, November 26, 2009

Panto!

[OK, it is obvious that I have completely blown NaBloPoMo, so I will now commence posting on my usual irregular schedule without further apologies. Onward!]

I was a big fan of E. Nesbit as a kid, but there were aspects of her turn-of-the-last-century British kids' lives that utterly mystified me. One of them was pantomime. At one point in The Treasure Seekers, the kids all get an offer from Albert-Next-Door's-Uncle to go to the pantomime. It seemed to have something to do with Christmas, and I knew what a mime was--those weird, black-clad clowns who could be seen blowing up invisible balloons outside the Metropolitan Museum--so I always envisioned this pantomime as some bizarre no-words performance of the Nativity story. I also thought of it as something that happened, a) only a long time ago, and b) only in England.

Well. Apparently, I was quite wrong on all these counts. Here's what Wikipedia has to say about pantomime. Basically, aside from being performed around Christmas, it has nothing to do with the holiday; it's a sort of broad farcical version of any one of a number of stock fairy-tale-based stories (Peter Pan started as British pantomime), though there are also original modern pantos--last year, I saw ads for "Panto of the Rings" on the community bulletin board at one library where I work. Which brings me to the other thing I was wrong about: Canada is one of several non-England-based panto strongholds. You hardly ever see it in the U.S., but apparently the area work, being a traditional dwelling for immigrants from the British Isles, is one of the best places in North America to see pantomime-- or, as it is charmingly nicknamed, panto. Just one of those things, like different-colored money and square-cut screwdrivers, that lets you know Canada actually is a different country from the U.S.

So last night, the Renaissance Woman and I pulled our our google-fu to find out how many pantos there are around here, and where they're playing. Turns out we have many choices: aside from old-school panto offerings like Snow White and Aladdin, there are newer adaptations, including The Wizard of Oz and (yes) Panto Wars. We opted for a traditional panto, Babes in the Wood, which promises drama, audience participation, drag (an essential panto element), plus Robin Hood and Maid Marian. As my non-panto-going grandparents might say, what's not to like?

I can't wait.

3 Comments:

Blogger Of Life, Education, E-bay, Travel & Books said...

as a life long fan of Noel Streatfeild's Shoe stories I'v always wanted to go to a Panto!

'

2:38 PM  
Blogger Anna said...

I was just thinking of the Shoe stories myself. Els, I'm sorry not to read you more often...it was fun, while it lasted. ;)

6:54 AM  
Blogger MsJess said...

I remember ine one of Noel Streatfeild's books (Dancing shoes maybe? The one with Dulcie and Rachel) she goes into detail about the pantomimes and indicated they didn't really follow the traditional story very closely. Dulcie gets to be Little Red Riding Hood and instead of Red being eaten by the big bad wolf, she gets rescued by the queen of the faires and whisked off into fairyland to do a ballet sequence.

5:53 PM  

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