December 22, 2019
One of the best things about Christmas is the arrival of panto season, a great British tradition that leaves other countries flummoxed. Women wearing head-scratching mullets to play Peter Pan! Men in hi-shine, fire-hazard polyester, before the arrival of Ru Paul’s Drag Race. Slightly rude jokes about breasts – and in front of the kids. Someone who used to be in Hollyoaks! 
How To Survive The Christmas Pantomime Trip in 5 Simple Steps
It’s all nonsense, but it’s great nonsense, and if it’s good enough for Sir Ian flippin’ McKellen, it’s good enough for the rest of us. 
If you’re still feeling baffled, with these five pointers, you’ll be just fine.1) Choose the right panto for youThere are loads of them out there, from ultra-traditional ones to super-minimalist ones to postmodern meta-pantos.
Do you go for the glitzy one with the A-lister treading the boards, the mid-range one with the ironically booked cheesy over-the hill former star, or one featuring people who actually, like, act on stage for a living? And how do you figure out what’s best for your kids?
Theatre troupe Sleeping Trees, currently starring in Goldilocks and the Three Musketeers​ at the Battersea Arts Centre, suggest doing your research.
“Listen to your child’s request exactly,” they suggest, “and then go and see whichever pantomime you want, because you are the adult.”2) Sneak your own booze and snacks inThis is essential (if not officially permitted) – buying a bag of Maltesers in a theatre requires remortgaging your house, and the cheesy jokes delivered by that guy that used to be in an insurance advert go down a lot better after a smuggled-in tinnie or two.
As a reminder, feel free to take a cue from Christmas’s most famous skinflint, remembering to get both booze and sweets with the mantra: “Bar, humbugs”.  Related... The Best Champagnes And Sparkling Wines For Christmas 3) Interactivity: a complex beastAudience interaction is a huge part of the panto experience – “He’s behind you!” is a staple, after all – but the rules can be tricky to figure out. If you’re used to watching telly together and chatting along through it (“Look darling, Duggee’s wearing body paint now! Do you think Duggee used to do a lot of pills?”), a theatre environment is a bit different.
You can’t just chunter on through it all (“Look, that person’s fallen over and hurt their bottom! I expect their bottom is very sore now”), but at the same time, you must constantly be ready to join in with a bit of mass shouting. It’s complicated, but toddlers can work iPads. They’re secret geniuses, they’ll figure it out.Related... I Tell My Children Rules Do Not Apply At Christmas – And You Should, Too 4) Remember, you can always just step outThis one obviously only works if someone is there to attend to your kids. But say you’re going to the loo, and just go and stand in the foyer and breathe deeply for a minute or so.
Hooray!5) Lasting out the whole showYoung children aren’t famed for their attention spans, and pantomimes can be a bit lacking in the quick-cut, whiz-bang, high-octane entertainment department, especially when compared to, say Transformers: Robots In Disguise on Netflix. People standing on a stage, even in wacky costumes, just don’t measure up.
Fortunately, the people who organise pantomimes tend to be aware of such things – for every two-and-a-half-hour epic like the Hackney Empire’s Dick Whittington, there’s a more digestible 45-minute one.
Or, try and run a bunch of energy out beforehand, and let the whole “large dark room” thing take over. Sure, if they pass out 15 minutes in you’ve paid £12 for your child to have a nap, but the hell with it, right?
It’s Christmas. Eat your sweets and enjoy the show. God bless us, every one.Related... The School Nativities That Tore Up The Rule Book – In Good Ways And Bad The Best Christmas TV To Watch With, Well, Just About Everyone 31 Things You Never Knew About Love Actually, Actually
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