By Laura Dazon and Mary Stephanie Israel
★ ★ ★ ★
As an international student in the UK, I have been surprised many times by aspects of the British culture (seriously, please stop putting beans everywhere). But if anyone had told me about pantomimes before, I would have been a much happier person.
The bright blue posters for the show are everywhere on the streets of Cardiff. If you are familiar with Gok Wan on TV, you will have recognized his smile on the walls of the New Theatre. And if, like me, you were foreign to the concept of Panto, you will have been intrigued by this cast that looks nothing like all of the classic Cinderella renditions that you’ve seen before.
And boy, was I in for a ride.
The essence of Pantomime is that it is a traditional British Christmas play based on classic tales. And what immediately immerses you in this universe is the visuals. The background sceneries are reminding of children’s cartoons and not a minute goes by without new opportunities to admire the work put in props and pyrotechnic effects. But what was most mesmerizing to me were the costumes. In particular the ones sported by the two evil stepsisters, Claudia and Tess. They show off an incredible range of grotesque outfits.
Whilst the grandiose and dramatic visuals encapsulated my inner child, I was surprised by how adult-centred the script was. I lost count on how many sexual innuendos and political puns were being let go to the point where I caught myself time and time again to be mulling over what had just been said. Once it finally clicked, I had my little moment of delayed laughter that heightened my enjoyment of the show. These mature one-liners were balanced out by the audience participation that they required mostly from the younger audience. It was extraordinary how nuanced the writing was that it managed to be entertaining for both children and adults.
The juxtaposition between the visuals and the script makes for an over-the-top, sometimes confusing, but overall very amusing experience.
I loved that in this extremely well-rounded production there was still space for improvisation and unplanned laughter. It really re-enforced the playful atmosphere of Panto, “where everything is possible.” If you’re looking for a “fa-fa-fabulous” night in Cardiff, give panto a go!