There is a long tradition of going to the pantomime in our family. We’ve been going every year for a long time, and some years we’ve gone en masse, twenty or thirty of us filling a couple of rows at the local theatre.
We’ve seen some great pantos and some rubbish ones, but we’ve enjoyed all of them, one way or another. I think the best might have been the one that was pulled out of the bag by four understudies a dancer and the prop guy when the cast went off sick. They read bits of script off props, scenery, and, sometimes, each other, shifted their own sets, played more than one role each, mimed the songs, improvised the dances, and threw caution and dignity to the winds to give us a performance to remember; and we do remember it, and we will for a very long time to come.
That’s what panto is all about: risk... risk and magic, and getting the audience on-side and keeping it there. I doubt anyone in that auditorium had ever laughed so much at a pantomime as we all did that night, including the dudes on the stage.
Last night, at the very last minute, the dort got tickets for the panto, for the four of us, and she booked a late lunch/early supper beforehand, too. We all decided it was a splendid way to round off the holidays, and off we went to the local Italian for a bowl of pasta before the curtain went up.
We were seated and had ordered when a family group of four adults and two kids, of about three and five years old, came into the restaurant. The kids were clutching plastic wands with flashing lights and rotating tops, and the youngest, a little boy, was grizzling, loudly.
My question is this: Who expects such young children to sit through a couple of hours of performance in a theatre, while getting hopped up on flashes and bangs and ‘behind you’, and probably on ice-cream and fizzy pop, too, and who then expects those same kids to sit quietly and behave for a couple of hours in a restaurant while the adults drivel on inanely about whatever crap happens to be exercising their tiny minds at that moment, and which might include the latest hit tv show, designer bag, new car/kitchen/house or, perhaps, who’s doing what to whom?
I’m all for having high expectations of kids, and I’m the first to recognise that they’re not going to live up to all of them, but a five year old and a three year old would have to be superhuman to be capable of sitting still and remaining quiet in public for four, or possibly five hours, while their parents and grandparents enjoy the theatre and a meal. Really... Who on Earth thought that was ever going to happen? One or the other would be a tall order for a three year old, but both?
I wouldn’t mind so much, but it wasn’t the three year old’s fault he was pissing the rest of us off. I didn’t want to smack his bottom, as some of the other patrons of the restaurant clearly did. I wanted to smack his mother’s bottom.
Her solutions to the problem were various. She began by getting cross. You can be as cross as you like with a screaming three year old, but harsh tones will not make it stop crying, probably ever, and all she was really doing was adding her noise to his.
In the end, two iPads were produced. The five year old could manage earbuds, but the three year old couldn’t. I gather that the kids watched the same tv program, because they were actually asked, and the sounds of the kid’s crying were swapped out for the dulcet tones of the cast of EastEnders, which begs the question of who thinks a soap is appropriate tv viewing for a three year old or a restaurant.
Honestly, I’m not sure I wouldn’t rather have put up with the child’s noise. Better yet, give the poor little mite to me, because a bit of a attention, a few kind words, a little discrete playing, maybe a run around outside, and there’s a good chance he would have calmed down and been perfectly fine for a while longer.
The panto was graced with Chloe Madeley’s presence as Cinderella. I don’t think any of us truly believes she was born to sing or dance... including Chloe Madeley.