Q: What advise would you give to students undertaking their first run of Panto? Our performers & tech students start tech on Monday. Thanks in advance
— West Kent College Performing Arts & Music (@WKC_PArtsMusic) December 3, 2019
This article, due to it being panto-themed, is stuffed tighter than a Christmas turkey with panto gags. Some old, some new, and some as bad as Donald Trump’s wig.
The first thing, my lovely students, is to enjoy it. Put on your strongest show pants, your reddest lipstick, get out there, and have fun. Besides, it won’t be long until you’ve been acting for years and think: ‘Where is my career?’ To which your agent will reply: ‘It’s behind you!’ So the least you can do is enjoy it now.
Try to be energetic and loud – and say all your lines with confidence (and preferably in the correct order). This will stop the audience falling into a ‘sleeping death’ (which is the curse put on Snow White). And if you don’t know what a ‘sleeping death’ is, you’ve obviously never been to a James Blunt concert.
In pantomimes, it is vital you wear the right costume. Make sure it fits well and allows you to move easily. You don’t want to feel as uncomfortable as the chicken who overheard someone saying “eggs are going up again”.
And, of course, it’s important you are well fed. Fill yourself with lots of nutritional treats to keep your energy up. Eat plenty of fruit and veg, complex carbs (they’re complicated), drink lots of water, and consume numerous pints of low-fat yoghurt (but be careful not to get totally Müllered during your panto run).
On the subject of health, it is essential you warm up properly before the show. Do a good vocal and physical warm-up. Try stretches, lunging and gentle cardio. You could even try a quick game of football. But never do this in front of Cinderella. She’s rubbish at it. Because she had a pumpkin for a coach.
Also, respect the leading actors in your company. Particularly those who play the baddies. Most of them are also magicians. And they can turn you into a prawn cocktail. And that’s just for starters.
I would also advise you to keep personal relationships out of the company. They never work. Apart from the time Buttons started dating Derek the Donkey. That turned out to be a stable relationship.
Look after your voice – without it you are simply a mute in drag. Drink plenty of water and have emergency Vocalzones in your dressing room. You don’t want to end up like Penelope the Pony. She’s got a sore throat. Well, she’s a little hoarse (God, they’re getting worse… apologies!).
Know the theatre well, especially all your exits and entrances. I knew an actor who kept falling through the floor in a panto once. But I think it was just a stage he was going through.
Finally, have some good, topical jokes – ones that may result in you getting booed off stage and having bread rolls thrown at you. A good one if you ever perform at the Lord’s Taverners’ annual cricket charity lunch is: “This is my Brexit dress. Everyone wants me out of it, but once it happens they’re not so sure.”