I’m doing panto (oh, yes I am!) Why? Bloody good question.
I think if I remember rightly I was on a high from two months off work and full of, ‘get out and be part of the community!’ with a side order of, ‘challenge yourself more!’
So, that translated into auditioning for the local pantomime. That was meant to be the challenge by the way. Auditioning. Never done it before. Never even considered it. Go out in front of 5 total strangers and pretend I can act. Challenge completed, why yes I’ll be fine as part of the chorus thanks very much…
So. Being sat in the back room of a local church hall trying to remember my lines(!), surrounded by costumes, a wig-less dame and a sea captain having a wardrobe malfunction, came as somewhat of a shock. It shouldn’t have. After being given a part, being totally gobsmacked but continuing to pretend to know what I was doing; we’d been having (somewhat fractious, mostly fun) rehearsals for the past three months. I guess the show itself wasn’t a shock, but the stage fright most certainly was. I have been on stage before, much more than once. I tend to enjoy it to be honest, and have never found it scary. I’ve usually been in dance shows or in musicals as a dancer, and once very memorably as a mime. But never, ever to talk, and actively enouraged not to sing.
So as I sat there with a weird tingly feeling in my arms, the contents of my intestines deciding whether to desert me or not, and if so by what route; not to mention the absolute conviction that I could not remember a single one of my lines, it’s safe to say I was regretting my life choices. Bloody community spirit. Why couldn’t I just donate some raffle prizes and have done with it??
Once I dragged myself out of my chair, I lost count of the times I pinballed between waiting at the side of the stage for my cue, and dashing back to my chair to check my first lines. I tried to distract myself with the conundrum of whether to cry or be sick, but then. Well. Then it was time. Just when I was erring on the side of being sick, no crying, no definitely being sick, it was time to go on.
And do you know what? I bounded on, didn’t fall over, and all the words I’d practised came flowing out (and a few more besides). There were fluffed lines, but not all of my doing. There was terror, laughter and fortunately no tears or vomit. Not the real kind anyway.
I love it. Absolutely loved it. Over the next shows my confidence grew. Ok, so this was due in part to having the distraction of forgetting a costume at one of them and having to rush home to pick it up and get back before curtain up. I have been stress eating Haribos. And prancing around like a loon backstage because I can’t for the life of me sit still. But I know that even with all the butterflies having a rave in my stomach, when I’ve gotten onstage, I’ve been ok. Actually one of the best bits has been things going slightly wrong – it’s given me the confidence to know that the world didn’t end and a trap door didn’t open on the stage to swallow me up. True I nearly wandered off the front of it at one point but it would probably have got some laughs. And I think that’s the beauty of panto, and why it’s the ‘safest’ thing for me to have done – it can all go completely wrong, but as long as you can figure it out or make a joke of it, you’re laughing. And with any luck, the audience are too.
There’s two more shows to go. Yes, we’re getting past the middle of January, but still. Two more shows, the busiest two by all accounts and the added pressure of friends and family attending. What could go wrong?? Don’t answer that. Just don’t expect to get your hands on any Haribo this weekend.* They’re all mine.
*Cast excluded ❤