I saw my first pantomime today. There was a traveling production called Mother Goose that the nursery and reception kids watched this morning.
I'm not really sure how to describe a panto for Americans...they are generally based around a fairy tale or nursery rhyme, I gather that usually there is quite a lot of cross dressing, it is for children(ish) but contains a number of topical pop culture/news references, you yell out at the actors on stage (In ENGLAND! I think this is one of those cases where something is SO taboo that an event is created where the taboo is lifted once a year. Is there a word for that? A fancy anthropology word?), and they happen every Christmas- generally with some random celebrity headlining (Case in point- this year Pamela Anderson is in one in Wimbledon. Seriously? Pamela Anderson?)
The panto started at half past nine so that meant that I had just enough time after the tykes arrived to gather them all up into one room and *try* going through all of the songs for the nursery's Christmas Carols performance. It was at about a quarter past nine that I realized that I had never seen all of the nursery children in one place. Do you know how many of them there are? *63!* And do you know how short they are? In order to get their attention I started with our basic physical warm up: wiggling fingers on our heads, clapping together, a big "shhhhhhhh!", and a bit of vocalizing. That mostly worked except that I was literally tripping over children. (The room was far too small to have a circle and we hadn't been organized enough when they were entering to keep any semblance of order- the tykes were willy nilly around the room/my ankles)
There is still a lot of work to be done on the songs but it was such a good thing to get all of them into one room. We'll be doing that again multiple times next week- at least then the shock of performing and being surrounded by their mommies and daddies (and babies! Don't forget the babies Miss Casey!) won't be compounded by the shock of having all three nursery classes together for the first time.
We went through the songs for the show, I sang "snowflake serenade" (the late entry to our set list) at them since they just need to hear it a lot at this point, and then we still had 10 minutes to kill and did I mention this was disorganized? The teachers were mostly sitting at the back of the room either dealing with a few tykes who are unable to handle crowds or exhaustedly taking a moment to breathe- which is when it occurred to me that I was in charge. That I was running this rehearsal, no one else had any particular agenda, and any decision about what we were going to do was in my hands since I was the expert in the room. Weird. So we sang some movement songs and I got them all quiet and then LOUD and we were princesses and princes (a first, actually), and spiderman (not a first), and eventually we were able to go into the cafeteria/hall to watch the panto. Oh, the panto.
Quick Plot Summary: Old Mother Hubbard and Silly Billy have adopted Priscilla the Goose and are worried both about money and about their evil neighbor who is a famous chef with a famous restaurant called Hells Kitchen. Priscilla lays a golden egg, the evil neighbor kidnaps her, and eventually Silly Billy saves her. Woo!
Oh, something I forgot about pantomimes, you *always* end up shouting "He's/She's BEHIND YOU!!" (also, according to Ella, "oh yes he is!" "Oh no he isn't!" and "BOOO!" with appropriate thumbs down gesturing)
We sat all of reception and nursery down on short benches and the floor and, for the first half (it was an hour and a half long show! For four year olds! I was impressed), I sat in amongst the tykes on the floor. The tykes: they got in to it.
*N. kept standing up and screeching with a big grin on her face because she was SO! EXCITED!
*M. was practically bursting out of her skin trying to help Silly Billy and Mother Hubbard out. She was pointing her arm out with her back arched and all of her muscles taught, clearly holding her breath as though if she could just squeeze herself enough the good guys would win. With her help and inside information. Obvs.
*T. wandered on to the stage, looked up at Silly Billy, and then was whisked off again by a teaching assistant
*P. got "cross" with the villain and during one quiet lull yelled out "You'll not be getting a biscuit!"
The whole thing was pretty hilariously cute.