Ah pantomime. One of those weird British traditions that are almost impossible to explain to anyone else who has never grown up with them. How do you rationally say why you spent ages 4-10 shouting “he’s behind youu!!!” to a man dressed up in women’s clothes?
There are no two ways around it: pantomime is very strange. But it’s what we have as a tradition, and God damn it, we need to celebrate it. Like Churchill, world wars and the empire, it’s something that might not necessarily be our best face, but it’s quintessentially British. In recent years, though, something has changed. Z-list celebritydom has entered the fray.
That’s right, pantomime season is no longer the preserve of underpaid jobbing actors getting a Christmas bonus (but at the expense of being vomited on by crying children who are hopped up on sugary sweets). The rules of the game have changed, and we’ve got Z-list celebrities moving into territory that was formerly the domain of Boring Brian Smith, character actor whose biggest claim to fame was being a hoodlum in The Bill in 1989.
These days we roll out the big guns on our stage to represent this British tradition – and often, the big guns ar expensive, glamorous American imports who you’d never normally see in Bognor Regis but for a two week period around the festive season.
Who cares that they don’t understand the whole concept? Who cares that their funny accents and golden skin stands out in the cold, dark, dank season? This is Christmas, dammit, and we want a bit of sparkle and shine to liven up our dreary existence.
If you’re heading to a pantomime this season, you might be able to bask in the reflective glow of some hasbeen celebrity. Darren Day, he of the questionable mid-90s crush, will be playing bad boy Captain Hook in Kettering this Christmas, twice daily to baying kids and disinterested parents.
Tracey Beaker “star” Dani Harmer will be parlaying her Strictly Come Dancing 15 minutes of actual fame into an appearance as Cinderella at the York Barbican. Ann Widdecombe will be Widdy in Waiting in High Wycombe.
Bona fide Hollywood star Neil Patrick Harris is one of the strangest appearances this season (though to be fair he’s going to be in one of the sole American pantomimes, so that doesn’t really count). But why would you want the How I Met Your Mother star when you can see Lisa Riley in Southsea?