For more than 200 years, the Brits have kept alive the holiday tradition of pantomiming fairy tales such as Mother Goose. With a male taking the title female role and host of silly characters supporting, the audience is encouraged to hiss, boo, sing-along and laugh uproariously.
To help us American novices, Theatre Britain outlines what to expect in its panto Mother Goose by Jackie Mellor-Guin. A man will play the Dame; the Principal Boy in breeches will be a woman; and the villain must be booed upon entering. But perhaps most important for an American audience—accustomed to tight-lipped, clasped hands theater-going—the directions read: Don't be Shy!
Mother Goose is a children's show designed to elicit squeals of delight. Chickens and geese cluck their way around the stage, pausing to ask a child in the front row for directions or help. Rodney Faffer (Audrey Ahern in britches) demands audience aid and Mother Goose (a staggering Nathaniel P Reid) bats her eyes at a man in the second row.
Nothing can top a room filled with laughter and jeering. The cast of Mother Goose engages the audiences for the full two hours, allowing the audience to loosen up. Even the teenager behind me, who walked in rolling his eyes, was chiming in when Mother Goose led us in a rousing rendition of "Don't Get Your Knickers in a Twist."
As the story goes, Mother Goose is on the verge of losing her house when she discovers a golden egg-laying goose. Her newly acquired excess quickly turns to vanity and she must re-learn the value of friendship.
Although pantomime was originally an adult genre, it is easily re-appropriated for a younger age group. Mother Goose crosses age groups, with enough jokes for the adult crowd. Playwright Mellor-Guin, who doubles as a realtor in Los Angeles, inserts a number of jokes about fixed mortgages and an innuendo or two.
A great deal of fun for the entire family, Theatre Britain hatches a holiday hit with its latest panto.