Yesterday I went through what appears to be something of an annual tradition: attending a Christmas pantomime, and then trying to explain to my Belgian expat wife what a pantomime is. The closest approximation I can get to is “it’s a cross between Disney and commedia dell’arte“, but even that isn’t quite right. There’s no real explanation for what pantomime is.
The one pantomime they saw with me had Tim Vine playing Buttons and being Tim Vine all the way through, so I’m not sure it was wholly representative. Mind you, the one I saw yesterday had Star-Lord in it, and I’m fairly certain he wasn’t in any version of Sleeping Beauty I’m aware of.
It is an art form in itself, and while some love it, some hate it, and some are ambivalent. I’m thoroughly in the latter camp…
…except for that one time.
When I was in my late teens, and beginning to grow out of going to pantomimes (although I later went back to them, and ended up being in one, even singing too), my grandparents booked four tickets for them to take my sister and I to the same theatre we went to every year to see the annual pantomime featuring the same cast. This year’s was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs featuring some forgettable Hollyoaks idiot playing Prince Charming and the generic principal girl as Snow White.
There was also nothing particularly special about Muddles (the jovial “Buttons” character who held things together), although he had a certain level of infectious energy to him. What I was interested in, in that particular performance, was the fairy character… or the Spirit of the Woods.
Because she was celestially beautiful.
I wrote feverishly in my diary that evening. “The Spirit of the Woods was played by the most pretty girl I have ever seen!” teenage ILB enthused, and then – for emphasis – I filled the rest of the row with seven exclamation marks.
And then spent the rest of the night with her face in my head and a rapidly stiffening cock. Christmas morning was quite sleepy as a result.
I could have left it at that, of course. But I didn’t. I enthused, at great lengths, to my parents about the beautiful woman playing a fairy at the local panto they hadn’t yet seen. They didn’t take the hint about going to see it themselves and taking me along to sit at the front this time and squirm, nor did they think much of it besides the fact that it was cute how enamoured I was. I was still talking about it by the time I got back to school in January (having seen the panto itself on Christmas Eve), and the following year when I scripted my own one, I wrote her in.
For no real reason. She was just in it. It was Cinderella and she wasn’t the Fairy Godmother. Just a random, absolutely stunning fairy.
Normalise this, please.
The following year I was absolutely chomping at the bit to go, and was taken, but she was nowhere to be seen. I had to sit through another forgettable Hollyoaks hunk doing Peter Pan and was less than thrilled by the whole experience.
I took a few minutes yesterday to see if there was any information in the theatre about the pantomime they did in the nineties which I could barely remember. As it turns out, there was… amongst a catalogue of posters put up to celebrate their rich history of entertaining gullible children. She wasn’t in the poster, but maybe at least her name would be on it.
It wasn’t. Hollyoaks guy was all over it, but radiant fairy girl may as well not have existed. She wasn’t in the official theatre literature either. My pretty fairy was an unperson. Disappointing as this was, it was more creepy than anything else.
Maybe she existed just to give me a little jolt.
That would be nice. Thanks, universe.