It’s been an encouraging time for me lately on the pantomime front. This year I published my first panto as solo writer – Rumplestiltskin – via Lazy Bee Press. It’s always nerve-wracking to send my work out into the world, waiting to see not only if people like it, but will some people actually put real money on the table to stage it. My last panto, a version of Treasure Island co-written with Adrian Barradell, had failed to attract much interest. So it was a pleasant surprise when I received my latest sales report and read that a Washington based group called The British Players had chosen it as their pantomime for this year and will be staging it 4 – 20 December at Kensington Town Hall. Many thanks. Back in the UK, my old comrades at Mawdesley Amateur Dramatic Society are also kindly staging a production of it too. Another community group had bought a review copy, whilst Lowdham Pantomime Group has generously chosen Aladdin the version written by Adrian and myself a few years ago.
Pantomime are curious beasts to write. On one hand they are very formulaic and indeed their audience expects them to be so. A familiar folk tale. a silly dame, heroic boy and girl, completely evil villain, usually with two useless henchmen, and a monster at some point to chase the cast around. On the other hand a good panto also surprises us with its contemporary jokes and its magic. There must be a moment where all seems lost and the bad guy will win. It must entertain children of all ages and their parents too. Plus I know I am writing for companies where not everyone is a great actor or comedian. The characters must have strong identities of their own that can support anyone brave enough to step in front of an audience. There’s real pleasure to be had when I see someone get a big laugh with a joke I wrote for them.
At the moment I am trying to write in a different genre but I may well return to panto in a year or so’s time and choose another fairytale to retell both in my own style, and also with all the trusty pantomime tools in the box too.