Updated: Jul 15, 2020
For the last three years, the Children and I have visited the Georgian Theatre in Richmond, North Yorkshire. Each one of us looks forward to it, I think? Yesterday was the pick of the bunch. Whilst I occasionally enjoy the limelight, I'm especially nervous going to this theatre for fear that the Pantomime Dame 'volunteers' me out of the audience to do something daft on stage. What I hoped though, was that one of our Three would get chosen to go up so that we can have that memory of 'you remember that time when'? It's not happened yet, but yesterday was a close call.
All morning I'd been winding up our eldest with suggestions that were were going to the theatre to watch a very loud play, called 'All-a-Din'. Then I suggested that it was a play about an Arabian mathematician, 'Al' Adding'. Still no canned laughter. I then happened upon the idea that if Al Adding had a big family they could be Al Multiplying, or if someone died suddenly Al Subtracting or more appropriately, if Mum and Dad split up, Al Dividing. Not a single attempt at humour got a laugh. Needless, to say that didn't stop me from continuing with the Al Adding jokes or threatening to ask the concierge at the theatre, when collecting tickets, that we were here for the Arabian Maths play.
Luckily, the Children did not have to rely on my humour for entertainment as the show was first class. The Georgian theatre is particularly intimate and must only hold about 100 seats or so. We were just the second row from the front and two of the lucky family behind us were volunteered for their five minutes of footlights fame. The songs had everyone involved, 'Freddie Mercury' as the Genie was inspired and certainly all of the grown-ups seemed enraptured by the comedy of the performer, his outfits (although we were close enough to notice that Freddie's pants are splitting at the seam) and the lines from many Queen hits. The young people on stage did a particularly stirling job, the raps were inventive and the chemistry between all on stage seems to be very special. The Pantomime Dame (Gary Gacko Bridgens) just helps to 'knit' (there's a reason why I use this word and you have to go to see why) everything together, he's an enthusiastic and warm-hearted, genuine performer. There seemed a little sentimentality to the performance yesterday, I think I understand why? This is Gary's last Richmond pantomime performance. There will be some huge boots to fill for anyone taking that mantle on.
I'd also recommend that Tunnock's get their cheque book out to sponsor the theatre and keep this wonderful Yorkshire institute thriving. The reaction when the Widow Twankey lobs them in to the audience created slobbering, feverish grabbing plebs out of us all. Hopefully, next year I'll be so fit, I'll leap from my seat like a salmon and gloriously catch one seal-like in my mouth, adeptly unwrapping the silver and red foil wrapper with my tongue and swallowing whole before it's snatched from my grasp as it (almost, if I'd been anywhere near it) was yesterday.
Close enough to the stage to have chats with the actors, close enough to be heard (as our eldest found out, when he replied 'no' to an audience question to which the answer should have been 'yes'), although none of our Three were selected for a performance on stage I don't think I've seen them so happy, enthralled and involved at a pantomime before. For anyone local to Richmond (or even if you're not) and want to experience proper British panto, crowd participation and a belly full of laughs, with a sprinkling of belonging to something special (if only for a little over 2 hours), get yourself online or on the blower and grab a seat at one of the most uplifting theatrical performances I've ever had the privilege to enjoy. Maybe, we'll go again it was that good, can it ever be as enjoyable time around? Even if you hate panto (like me) you cannot fail to be swayed by what unfolds within that historically special place. Get yourself there before the opportunity 'is behind you'.