Why pantomime is like chocolate cake
Back in early spring, while most children were getting excited about Easter (and the prospect of some chocolate), we were getting excited about Christmas (and the prospect of some pantos)!
To be honest, we’re also excited by the prospect of chocolate (and pantomimes) at any time of year! Our extensive research shows that there’s a lot to be said for combining your passions.
We’ve found that the following go well together; chocolate + rehearsals; chocolate + casting; chocolate + prop planning; chocolate + cake. And so on…
At the first read-through of Scroogical, our new pantomime for 2016, we shared an enormous chocolate cake among those gathered. Not to name names (!) but our scriptwriter, composer, director, some of our actors, our production coordinator, a choreographer, some prop-design experts, and other team members – all had a piece!
Cutting this magnificent cake into manageable pieces seemed a shame and was actually quite hard work! But of course it had to be done to enable everyone to taste a little slice of joy! There was even some spare, which we gave to the people who manage the rehearsal room.
Little did we realise how closely cake would imitate art that evening…
The process for creating a piece of theatre is similar to baking a cake!
The initial read-through is the first time that the show ingredients come together and we start to whip-up an impression of how it will look and feel off the page.
The actors read the script and the composer sits at the piano and sings all of the songs. The director and writers then lead a discussion of the entire script working through scene by scene.
Sometimes we decide that whole characters or scenes are not necessary to tell the story in the clearest and most entertaining way. And of course we’re looking for ways for the children to join in and build strong relationships with each character.
On this occasion the read-through revealed that we had a few too many ingredients in our new pantomime.
Our panto shows traditionally last one hour. We find that this is the optimum timeframe to fit easily into the school day and ensure that the children remain thoroughly engaged. It’s worked well for Jack and the Beanstalk, Aladdin and Cinderella.
The Scroogical read-through lasted about an hour and twenty minutes! And that was without the audience inputs. We always encourage a bit of “Booooo!” and “She’s behind you!” and our West End actors love to get the children joining in with some of the dance moves and song lyrics too.
Of course only the best ingredients will do. We decided that our Great British Panto doesn’t need a character called “Mary Christmas”, and we’ve swapped a pinch of Elf for a light sprinkling of Christmas Spirit. We’re also planning to serve it all up with a side plate of puppetry.
So now we think we have an hour of focussed, engaging material, which the children in primary schools will love.
But the next stage is to test it, play with it, and experiment.