10 Reasons Why Panto Needs To Go Away Forever
Sarah Bailey takes a long hard look at the world of dames and custard pies
“Oh no it isn’t” that time of year again, is it?
There are two types of people in the world; those who see the approach of Christmas glee as a time to trek to a theatre to be subjected to an hour or two of raucous, distasteful, glittery pantomime; and those who don’t. The innuendo-filled, slapstick, undoubtedly 1970s humour appeals to some people – wrap it all up with a Christmas ribbon and there are sections of society who physically cannot contain their effervescent excitement.
I am not one of these people. I have never been one of these people and, honestly, I do not believe I will ever be one of these people.
My aversion to all things panto has nothing to do with a general Scrooge-like attitude – I am a big fan general Christmas merriment. Give me a Christmas jumper and some mulled wine and I’m set – a slice of cake wouldn’t hurt either. But there is something about a dame and a human-horse composite that makes me want to strangle kittens. (Note to the RSPCA – I’d like to believe this won’t happen, but if someone manages to get me near a pantomime I cannot make any promises. Sorry.)
Without further ado, in no particular order, here are my top 10 reasons panto should never see the light of day:
1. Career Resurrection – There is probably a reason why that actor who you’ve never heard of and who was apparently in Holby City five years ago hasn’t worked since – they’re probably a bit naff. In the panto-world however, actual talent is not on the list of either “essential” or “desirable” criteria for applicants – yet somehow this passes the paying customers by. It’s like any celeb-based reality television, it’s probably not going to do a lot for your career, love.
2. The Irrepressible Laugh Of A Middle-Aged Woman – The nature of pantomime is such that it intends to produce big laughs. Fair enough. But if you’re sat anywhere near a woman over a certain age, it appears to produce one of the worst noises known to mankind. As invasive as brain surgery (without anaesthetic) and as unstoppable as the career of Bruce Forsyth, the middle-aged-woman-laugh is a force to be reckoned with. And they’re like a moth to a flame when it comes to panto.
3. There’s Nothing Like A Dame (For A Very Good Reason) – They are a fundamental insult to comedy. And possibly humanity. (Also, not to give too heavy a slant upon the situation, but why is it okay to make such a mockery of transvestites?)
4. “Oh No He Didn’t!” – For the rest of the year, the whole of Britain loses the ability to say “oh no he didn’t” (or, conversely, “oh yes he did”) in anything but a panto-voice. It has polluted even the Christmas-less seasons.
5. And While I’m At It, “He’s Behind You” – See above. He might actually just be behind you, no need for the guttural tones of Brian Blessed. Especially in certain social situations; funerals, police stations, meeting the in-laws for the first time – it breeds awkwardness.
6. In Your End-o – See what I did there? Since when is it appropriate for a production with a target audience between the ages of five and ten to make obscene sexual innuendoes? Oh yes, that’s right, in the 70s. Which, by the way, we are supposed to have left behind around forty years ago now – did they not get the memo?
7. Audience Participation – “Everybody sing along to the song you learnt approximately four seconds ago, have immediately forgotten but apparently pretend to know all of the words to!” No. It prompts a scene like Mr Bean’s church outing (if you haven’t seen it, you will have no idea what I mean) but a hundred-fold more discordant.
8. Rustling – Of all the venues, there is none more prone to snack packaging-related rustling than the pantomime. A higher concentration of old ladies and small children, coupled with less need for concentration, and an overwhelming Christmassy need to eat your own body weight in confectionary, means it’s a disruption hot-spot. Made all the worse when you’ve finished your own sweets.
9. “Nobody Hates Panto” – Yes, yes they do. Just because people say I should like panto, makes me like it even less. And I didn’t like it a lot to begin with. Stop saying it, people, and I might just agree with you one day. (I won’t.)
10. And finally – Just Because It’s British, Doesn’t Mean It’s Good – Panto is a British tradition, therefore it should be cherished. Should it? How about other British traditions then? Morris Dancing? Punch and Judy? Stinking Bishop cheese? Burning witches? Burning Protestants, for that matter? All varying degrees of wrong.