On Friday, we went to the Cambridge pantomime -- "Robin Hood", this year. The truth is that I had a great present of two tickets, so we went along. I hadn't been for at least 15 years, probably more, since the kids were little (and the other truth is that even back then we tried to get other people to take them if we could).
Reactions? Well at 6.00 pm we were probably the only people in the audience who were not accompanied by an under-11, which made it interesting in itself. Otherwise, yes, it was funny (and fun) in a variety of different ways. And no regrets, far from it, for going at all. Great evening (do go if you get a chance!).
What struck me most was the way that the internet generation of kids really seemed to get a kick out of this old fashioned entertainment.
What I mean is that all the under fifteens (or so) -- that's the majority of the audience (I reckoned a ration of one adut to two kids) -- who we tend to think are committed to their laptop screens, to the exclusion of everyone else, were there screaming "oh no you're not" with the best of them. Not just that, they seemed to understand the rules of the face to face pantomime exchanges between actors and audiences. The one chant is clear: "oh yes we are" versus "oh no you're not"; but they could also adjust the responses from "I wish I could" to "I wish you couldn't" (OK not rocket science, but it's still an indication that the kids could improvise to cue, according to the conventions of the genre and the particular lines that gave the prompt.)
There were also some great jokes about the Lib Dems, among others. (After a bit of repartee about people being cowards, there was the quip about it all sounding like a party political broadcast for the Lib Dems). And there were some nice visual effects (loved the skeletons, by the way!). And there was a good variety of old fashioned pantomimic interaction with the audience. There were the kids brought up on the stage and at one point the great "Dame" (Matt Crosby) came to the audience and said, "we used to throw sweets to you, but Health and Safety doesn't allow it now, so i'm giving out a single sweet -- suck and pass along."
Ha ha, you say. But it was actually dead funny. We laughed and (I confess) I had a little weep later when the marriage of Robin and Maid Marion finally happened.
My question as I went out though was a bit different. I began to wonder about the demographic of the occasion. Who were these kids enjoying the panto, the cross dressing, and so forth. Were these the kids of Cambridge academics? No, of course not. But was there a really wider constituency here (it was a largely white audience, and the names of the kids who went upon the stage were pretty "middle class". And Cambridge, let me tell you, is a very mixed city. I guess the tickets are quite pricey (but not THAT pricey). Maybe panto has always been a pretty elite sport.