I did something new this year. With my lovely friend Cath Turnbull, I wrote a pantomime!
We picked “Sleeping Beauty” because it was a story that our local drama group hadn’t done as a panto for many years – only to find, when it was too late to turn back, that the professional theatre down the road had also picked Sleeping Beauty for this year’s show. Still, it didn’t deter us!
Along the way, I learnt several things from my co-writer (a successful professional panto director) and from experience, which I will share for the benefit of future panto writers:
- Never, ever include a custard pie scene. In previous years we have learnt that custard pies do one of three BAD things: they ruin costumes, they get in people’s eyes and they get dropped on the stage and someone falls over on the resulting mess. Health and Safety nightmare, wardrobe team’s nightmare. Don’t do it.
- Everything comes in threes. If you want the audience to shout “He’s picking the rose” to the cast it must be three times and three times only. More than that it gets tedious and boring.
- You can have too much of a good thing. Short and sweet is the motto for songs – if you have an audience of primary aged kids, they don’t want to listen to a love duet that lasts five minutes. I know this, because in a previous year I had to sing one!
- You carefully plan your script to last a set time. Reduce that by at least five minutes because your cast will see the glare of the floodlights and start adding in jokes of their own, and you can’t stop them once they’re on stage!
- Sometimes, the cast may add in jokes that are … a little risque … and everyone is going to think that you wrote them. (No, neither Cath nor I wrote the joke about the fan, for those of you who saw the panto …)
I think we might tackle Cinderella next – but following THAT joke there will be NO fans in Cinderella …