The end of last week was a busy, busy time for the Kramers. First, our things finally arrived from the USA! Although they took months longer to get her than I expected, 99.9% of my things were unbroken and undamaged … which is excellent considering the miles behind them. Basically, my tea trolley will need a wheel repaired and that’s it. All my dishes – including the china and crystal – arrived sound and whole. Therefore, shout out to International Van Lines.
Secondly, on Friday we went to our first Christmas Panto. Now, in America a pantomime is some gobshite in monochrome makeup pretending to be in an invisible box and a justifiable reason for homicide. In Britain, a pantomime is a Christmas play filled to the brim with puns, audience participation, silly cross-dressing, and frivolity. Imagine a live Rocky Horror Picture show for kids, if you can.
The little girl three houses down from us was one of the child actresses in the local panto, so we went to show support for our new friends. However, we were entertained beyond our reckoning! For one thing, the show was so camp it could have been the YMCA in the summer. It was also the be-all end-all of bad wordplay and worse jokes. For example, on character was named Calvin Klein. The “name was a bit pants, but that was all he had”. Moreover, a character died from falling into coffee grounds … a messy death, but at least it was instant. My affection for the atrocity of ludicrous comedy is such that I would have moved to Wales just to experience this stuff. Halleluiah!
Heretofore, I had only read about the Christmas panto during my research into life during the Regency era. It was noted that going to the panto was a central part of the Christmas tradition – especially for Londoners – but it didn’t really go into detail. Needless to say, I was curious as to what a panto entailed.
Apparently, a lot of things in a panto were made into ritual just before the Regency period, and by the time George III died the traditions were set in stone. The Panto Dame is a man in exceedingly bad drag and the Principle Boy in the show is always an actress wearing a costume showing more leg than daisy duke shorts. There is always an animal. Slapstick abounds. It is lush, it is.
America had already become Independent by the time Christmas Panto became an important part of the holiday cheer in Britain, so the panto never took off across the pond. It is a shame, because I know my kids loved it and I will scurrying to enjoy one next year as well. As far as I am concerned, a Yuletide panto is one of the greatest cultural legacies of the Regency!