When husband John first mentioned the word “pantomime” to me his American bride, I was quite sure that I knew what he was talking about: actors in make-up who could silently and dramatically describe a wall, running, going upstairs, and much more, just with their bodies and no props.
“Oh no,” he laughed. “This kind of pantomime has wildly raucous music, a song competition that no one wins, a story that is the same no matter what the title, a ghost, a Bad Guy we can boo and hiss, an animal that usually comes in two parts, the principle woman is a man dressed up as a woman, and the principle boy is a girl with good legs.” I looked at him steadily to see if he was joking. He was not. With this kind of a model, I wondered how the Brits had ever learned to procreate, but I said nothing.
Over the years I have learned to love village pantomimes – they are real community building events. I have even had the privilege of taking part in a few. The actors are all ages and come from all backgrounds and would probably have never known each other were it not for working so hard on the production. And making volunteer thespians out of those who come forward is not easy, believe me. There are wranglings, and ironings-out, and vowing never-never-ever to do this again and learning lines either well or disastrously, and people who get sick at the last minute and others have to fill in, and then, and THEN, the curtain goes up and the whooping, laughing delighted audience who has come to see its own people on stage, to giggle, to shout and boo and cheer and abuse, become so exuberant and hysterical that they lose all decorum. It’s truly a wonderful evening.
Then suddenly it’s all over. The future is gaping and empty. So what shall we do for next year?With the stress and time pressures on everyone these days, the number of local village pantos is withering quickly. If you still have one in your area, do your best to support it – it builds the cross-ties of the community better than any other event. Or, why not join in and become part of it? Even if you volunteer as Curtain Puller Extraordinaire, you’ll be in on the act.
Food before a panto must be easily prepared ahead of time, simple and not too rich. After all, you do have a night of haranguing and abusing ahead of you. Here’s an easy casserole as a suggestion:
Chicken or Tuna Noodle Casserole
Boil until tender noodles for the number of people you are serving. Generally, a single serving of dry pasta is 75 grams (2 ½ ozs). Put in a buttered casserole dish. Either make a white sauce of 3 tablespoons butter, 3 tablespoons flour, and stir in enough milk to the consistency of thick cream, or use two tins (cans) of condensed mushroom soup. In either case add ½ teaspoon curry powder and/or ground coriander. Add 2 tins (cans) solid packed tuna (drained) or two cups cooked chicken chunks. Add the sauce to the casserole dish and incorporate the noodles so that all are resplendently coated in the sauce.
Now that you’ve got the basics, it’s time to get creative. Add any or all of the following and mix well:
- 1 cup or more strong cheddar or blue cheese, grated.
- frozen corn or peas, 2 handfuls
- mushrooms and sliced spring onion sauteed in butter
- cashew nuts
- left-over cooked vegetables
- sliced green olives
- chopped hard boiled eggs
- finely chopped red bell pepper
- a pinch of dried chilli flakes
(note: some people also add crisply fried bacon bits, too.)
Spread in the buttered casserole dish. Sprinkle the top with the contents of a small packet of crushed plain potato crisps (chips), minus the one or two you sampled for quality control. Bake in a moderate oven until bubbly. Serve with sliced fresh tomatoes, and warmed good quality bread.