We got into the Christmas spirit early this year. That is, the long suffering husband stocked up the drinks cabinet and I bought a tree, right after thanksgiving, from the Canadians who set up little fragrant pine forests on every street corner of NYC.
Since then I find myself homesick for pantomime. This is odd because when we were children my family never took us. The closest we came to theatre was chilly Junior School Christmas parties at the neighboring Reform School for naughty boys and orphans. There the hall was big enough to seat us and we would watch a crackly old reel of Charlie Chaplin while eating mince pies and Walls ice cream while the naughty boys played around in the snow outside.
This week I was also sick (a nasty norovirus) and while lying in bed watching the warm little lights twinkling on my tree out on the balcony I tried to fathom the source of this Panto nostalgia. Then it came to me. One year a troop of traveling actors came to Congleton County Infant School and performed “The Pied Piper of Hamelin”. I was four years old and enthralled. The excitement was matched only when, the following year, the circus came to town and we were allowed to line the street to see the elephants walk down from the station to set up the big tent.
I took my own children to the theatre for the first time when they were preschool to see “The Gingerbread Man”. It was superb. But when the “Old Tea Bag Witch” leapt out of the Teapot and I shouted out with the others “he’s behind you” they were embarrassed. They begged me not to, but I couldn’t help it. Later when my daughter was fifteen we took her to a midnight New Years Eve performance of “Twelfth Night” in a tiny theatre in the East Village. Again she was humiliated to be with her parents when she could have been up to no good at CBGBs with her friends. But Robert Hooke, an aging actor with the Pearl Theatre Company, saved the evening by playing Malvolio so superbly that she had to laugh – he was about 80, but an actor to his core, he played his heart out and now she too has the theatre bug.
Last year, the closest we could get to Panto was “The Lion King” on Broadway. This year it was “War Horse - the play”. The puppetry was magnificent in both. I can’t wait for my grandson to be three so we can go together and shout out from the rafters to embarrass his mother.