The last Saturday before Christmas and time for the annual trip with friends to York’s Theatre Royal pantomime.
Sadly, this year’s turn-out was quite a bit down on previous years. One couple weren’t able to make it and the husband of another friend was still posted in Basra. Numbers were slightly increased by Elizabeth’s first presence (although not her first pantomime – that honour went to the Grand Opera House, which she attended with a school friend’s family earlier in the week).
For anybody not au fait with the famous Theatre Royal panto, it’s not quite like all (or most of)the others. There’s no big names, usually very little plot and it’s more for the adults than the kids (although there is a bit of slapstick every year).
What there is, however, is a small, dedicated group of people (friends??) who come together every Christmas to provide brilliant entertainment. They are led by Berwick Kaler – writer, co-director and the best Dame out there. He should be, he’s been practising for over thirty years. His script leaves plenty of room for ad-libs (usually his own, in an attempt to both get the rest of the cast laughing and to take the mickey out of his nephew, who gets better every year.)
This year, said nephew played the titular Sinbad and there was, surprisingly, quite a complex plot. As usual the cast, especially regulars Martin Barrass and David Leonard, were excellent and, in a bizarre synchronicity with our contribution to the audience, were missing a couple of regulars and had added a newcomer in the form of lovely Scot Julie-Anna Castro (Donna Kebab). The jokes came thick and fast, as did Kaler’s naughtiness. The slapstick had been toned down but the sets were fantastic and seem to get better every year.
I used to go to the panto every New Year’s Day, with the rest of my family and friends of my parents, until we were deemed “too old” to go. A few years back, we started going with the aforementioned friends and I now look forward to taking Elizabeth for as long as possible.