Fee Fi Fo Fum….
I just can’t get enough panto at this time of year, so my eldest and I headed off to Bishop’s Stortford’s Rhodes Theatre last week for some quality mother-and-nearly-teenage-son time – watching a man with a beard in a dress, a girl in knee-high boots slapping her thighs, and a very wicked baddie singing about how thick everyone is.
Yes, it’s good festive family fun. Jack and the Beanstalk at Rhodes is all very traditional – a proper dame, a principal ‘boy’ in tights, a pantomime cow, tons of slapstick, and lots of chatting away to the audience.
The quality of the cracking young performers in the Bishop’s Stortford area has to be seen to be believed. Both the junior and senior choruses were brilliant – not just loads of enthusiasm but brimming over with poise, confidence and sheer flippin’ talent. And the young leads – Jack, Jill, Silly Billy – were fabulous. How Silly Billy manages to be quite that bouncy all the way through, I have no idea.
And the dame. Ah, good old Milky Mary. A giant of a, er, woman – with a rather pronounced beard (it’s a result of drinking magic water, apparently), a ton of stage presence, and a fabulous way with the audience. The look on my son’s face when she singled out the boy exactly one seat in front of him for some panto-dame attention was priceless – a mixture of horror and relief such as I’ve never seen on him before. And how many costume changes?
It’s never a real panto without a proper baddy, though. And the Baron – ooo, he was wicked. Pencil-thin moustache, velvet britches, and a fine line in Three-Stooges-style slapstick stage fights – along with his thoroughly gormless henchmen Wingnut and Spanner.
I’ve seen productions at the Rhodes Theatre before, and I love how they use projection and screens and special effects so inventively. Clever stuff, and not maybe what you’d expect in a theatre of that size and in a local production. Even my nearly-teen was impressed (and that, I tell you, is a tough job).
There was lots of boo-ing and ‘it’s-behind-you’-ing – and some singing along at the end as well. The song s were great – rewritten versions of ones you’d recognise. I’ll never listen to Uptown Funk now without singing “you’re all thick, I’m better than you” under my breath – or watch Frozen without humming “let it grow” and picturing a mighty beanstalk.
The little boy next to us, who must have been all of about 3, was beside himself with excitement – and the cheering and booing and singing were a great sign that what was happening on the stage was what the crowd was wanting to see. Old-fashioned panto, just enough cross-dressing, plenty of innuendo to keep the dads chuckling, and a good old sing-along at the end. Oh yes it was!