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Cross-dressing, singing, dancing, slapstick, in-jokes, audience participation and mild sexual innuendo are all integral parts of pantomime. From this description, you’d easily be forgiven for confusing it with a drug-fuelled sixties love-in. And – a bit like fondue – pantomimes are incredibly cheesy and require audience participation, but that’s where the similarities end.
A pantomime is a funny, musical play performed during the Christmas and New Year season and beloved by thousands of children across the UK and various other parts of the world. The plays are based on well-known children’s tales, such as Cinderella, Aladdin or Puss in Boots. In this year’s production by Centre Stage – The Terrific Tale of Jack and his Cosmic Space Cow, Daisy – it’s of course Jack and the Beanstalk.
Gender role reversal is a traditional element of panto, and the lead characters are always played by the opposite sex; Jack’s mother in this production will be a very hairy dame. Still with me?
It gets even weirder. A panto has a narrator who speaks directly to the audience and gets them to shout messages at the cast at different visual clues. For example, when a villain is on stage it’s the audience’s job to shout “He’s behind you” to our hero, Jack. Often enough, Jack will reward the shouters with a bag of sweeties.
Although the show is full of slapstick humour aimed at children, there are also lot of puns for the mums and dads. A panto is something the whole family will enjoy, and if you’ve never been to one, it’s time you did. Children under ten will absolutely love it, and whatever your age or your attitude going in, it’s nigh on impossible not to get involved.
The Terrific Tale of Jack and his Cosmic Space Cow, Daisy is the story of a down at heel day-dreamer called Jack who abandons his bovine buddy to be beamed aboard a space-ship inhabited by a gastronomic gargantuan – Ginormatron! He discovers that Earth’s in all kinds of trouble and it’s up to him to save the day, his beloved space-babe Jill and his mum, or they will all end up baked in a pie.
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