As regular readers may know, for years we went to the Christmas pantomime with our downstairs neighbours in Aberdeen. We always enjoyed His Majesty’s Theatre and the British panto tradition. For those who’ve never been to the pantomime, they are usually based on a fairy tale or children’s story (Sleeping Beauty, Aladdin, Jack and the Beanstalk, etc.). They involve dancing, singing, slapstick humour, and a variety of jokes. Some of these will be incomprehensible to the younger members of the audience, with references to local politics and happenings. There is always a baddie, and lots of audience participation. “Oh no you’re not!” “Oh yes you are!”. The “good” characters enlist the help of the audience (addressed as “boys and girls” regardless of demographics) to alert them whenever danger is near.
The pantomime often has a “dame”: a female character played by a man. The tradition of cross-dressing men at Christmas is peculiarly British. I well remember (as do others) a hilarious sketch at South Holburn Parish Church’s “Carols by Candlelight”. Two of the elders dressed as women and sang “Sisters, sisters” by Irving Berlin. Do you know it? The verse goes “Lord help the mister who comes between me and my sister / and Lord help the sister who comes between me and my man”. As it so happened, we had two American visitors with us that weekend. They sat in complete befuddlement, watching these men sing and kick their stocking-ed legs, while all the rest of us (well used to “dames”) fell off our chairs laughing. I did try to explain the tradition afterwards, but I don’t think I really succeeded!
This year, although we no longer live in Aberdeen, we were able to keep up our tradition, since “downstairs” very obligingly also relocated to Glasgow this summer. We used to go to the panto between Christmas and New Year’s, but as J and her family were in Aberdeen for Christmas itself, we opted for a New Year’s performance. The pantomime usually runs from the beginning of December until mid-January. We opted for the pantomime at The Pavilion Theatre.
The Pavilion is very like His Majesty’s Theatre in Aberdeen, although not quite as big. It is two years older, having been built in 1904.
The Dafter managed to come along, which was great, and a good time was had by all. At the end of the performance we were all (mostly) standing up and singing “one banana, two banana, three banana, four…”. In time-honoured pantomime tradition, the two sides of the theatre were in competition for who could sing the loudest.
Naturally, our side won!