Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Post Panto Depression

I've been reviewing pantomimes for about ten years. Before that, my nan used to be a chaperone for a pantomime (keeping the celebrity away from the young dancers, possibly). As a child, I would be taken to pantomime every year, as well as The Nutcracker. I saw that one off Terry and June doing the dame one time at Watford Palace Theatre.

I got into criticism because of my love for contemporary dance. I am a pseudo-intellectual who loves difficult work that probably upsets my mother, and allows me to ponder and pontificate. And when I see a dubious subtext in a script, I jump on it and moan. I give it the old post-modern reading, the intersectional analysis, blame and bully.

And I've let pantomimes get away with it. Let's do a couple of caveats, before I get into it.

This isn't the fault of the companies
Mostly: there are a few productions out there that are lazy, and are more than willing to roll out the celebrity star, the bad script and the lazy ensemble. But these generally do get called out: criticism is very good at identifying these problems.

And not all pantomimes are guilty
There are notable exceptions, which have fun with the format, subvert the narrative and show an awareness that this is the twenty-first century, not 1974.  

But now, I present: the problems of pantomime!

This usually gets worse when there is an attempt to deconstruct or subvert the role of the prince: finding a modern equivalent only emphasises class structure. 

Actually, I'm not saying I mind the monarchy - I don't think about them that often.  They are pretty much a minor detail in British politics - yes, you can argue if you like, but maybe do something about the voting system first. 

Anyway, the real establishment these days is celebrity. And don't pantomimes just encourage that?

I don't mind seeing The Krankies crank out their routines -

the little one is pretty funny, and the big one can laugh at himself. I don't even mind John Barrowman: he's an all singing, all dancing show man. But The Hoff kinda ruins it. 

Admittedly, Scotland isn't so bad on this: most of its pantomime stars are actually talented actors. Katie Price. however, probably isn't, and I reckon Frank Bruno is still making a fool of himself somewhere at Christmas. Know what I mean, Harry? 

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