‘Take part in the Sterts panto’ they said, ‘it’ll be fun’, they said, after all what else is a woman of a certain age suffering from empty nest syndrome and over invested in her dogs, going to do with her Autumn? ‘But, I’m a serious actress’, I said, ‘I perform in Shakespeare and Caryl Churchill and intense psychological thrillers and dress up in ginger wigs and pretend to be Dolly Parton’ – okay, maybe not that serious then.
Truth be told, I had a long and rather chequered history with pantomime: I was introduced to it at a fairly young age, performing alongside my Dad and my 4 siblings, the Pearson clan made up half the ensemble of the Prim Raf annual panto. I have many fond memories – a routine to The Nolans ‘I’m in the Mood for Dancing’, dressed as a pirate (nope, I’ve no idea, either), being a particularly strong one. When I had my children, the Christmas Holiday trip to the Pantomime at the Theatre Royal was a much anticipated treat, we all wore new party outfits and my daughters sat transfixed by the sets, the sparkly costumes and the big dance routines desperately hoping to be called onto the stage by the comedy sidekick.
The love affair took a downward turn when, a decade ago, I joyfully agreed to take on the part of the principal boy (oh yes I did!) in the Rilla Mill Pantomime. It all went swimmingly, lovely people, great show, until the last night when, during the interval, I started the after show party early and enjoyed a glass of bubbly. The second half is a bit of a blur but I do know that I got my scenes confused and after hearing the worried adlibbing from my cast mates shouting, ‘I wonder where Robin is?’ rushed on stage some minutes late. That was bad enough but I had prematurely changed into my wedding outfit (I hadn’t even popped the question to Maid Marion at that point) and worse, had divested myself of all weaponry. On that night, I defeated the heavily armed Sheriff of Nottingham with my finger! I like to think the sight of me in a tunic and tights probably helped – certainly had my children running away at the sight of their embarrassing Mum.
That night, I gave up drinking alcohol during a performance and appearing in Pantomimes,
Back to this October, after a particularly long weekend when I was contemplating making Amazon Prime orders just to see another real, live human being, I decided I needed to either sign up to Tinder or the Panto. Both were likely to take me out of my comfort zone, would involve trolls, curses and activities I’d forgotten how to do, but only one would guarantee Romance and a Happy Ending.
So here I am and they were right – it is fun! I can’t think of a nicer way to start off the Christmas festivities – come along and create a new tradition – might see you in the café during the Winter Warmer Interval but I’ll be giving the mulled wine a miss!
Written by Laura Pearson November 2019
Tickets available for the first ever panto at Sterts HERE