He’s Behind You: One Woman’s Crusade Against The Panto


Holidays are coming, yadda yadda. There’s no comfort in it for me, for Christmas bringeth not only the tinsel and the clove oranges but the dreaded pantomime.

Oh, I really don’t like the annual Christmas trip to the Panto. Nothing about it, none of it. Not the Billy Barry kids doing their caterwauling and high kicks, not the woegeous appearance of Widow Twanky, I mean Twinky, nor the two-person animal – now that gives me the absolute screaming horrors.

I didn’t love it when I was younger either.  I can distinctly recall the misery of realising, 10 minutes in, that we’d be there for hours yet.   The achingly slow unspooling of some nursery rhyme. The songs. The singing. The jokes. The adult jokes (nudge, wink). Children weeping, screaming and soiling themselves with over-excitement and sweeties.

You see, there’s normal time, and then there’s Pantomime time. In normal time, Christmas is over all too soon. In Pantomime Time, you’re hellishly bound to be subjected to three hours (it’s always at least three hours) of being bawled at and expected to Get Into The Spirit. The teeth-clenching horror of the double entendres. The X-Factor/government of the day/Victoria Beckham references – hey, it’s not like it’s a medieval pub entertainment, it’s still topical and fresh! Oh no it bloody isn’t.

Worst of all though, is the pitying, cross looks I get for gazing up at the rafters and wondering which one could bear my weight on the end of a slipknot, instead of peering down onto the stage where a fat man dressed as one end of a donkey is being chased around. Looking pained instead of bellowing inane responses isn’t the done thing (oh yes it is…).

There’s no greater sin than Not Entering Into The Spirit at the Panto.  If you’re not doing your best thigh-slapping music-hall thing, you’re a rotten old begrudger.  If you’re enjoying it on behalf of your actual child, you should be celebrating on behalf of your inner child.

This year I’m refusing to go. Whilst the offspring and other vulnerable suckers bellow out some bawderlised version of a pop song, I’ll be having a nice lie-down and getting ready for the rest of Christmas. Apart from the  Christmas cake, mince pies, plum pudding and brandy butter that is. Ho bloody ho.

Jenny Coyle

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