All Things Panto
Every year, everyone at Chatteris comes together to put on a festive Pantomime for students across various Primary and Secondary schools in Hong Kong. Who better to talk us through this year's performance than the Director of the show, Chatteris' own Max Price...
Way back in October, I became the Director of Chatteris’ annual Pantomime – a special event which invites schools from all over Hong Kong to come and watch an English language performance, performed by the CNETs they know and work with.
We were left with six weeks between the first rehearsal and the final performance, which would have been fine in a dedicated environment – but everyone in the cast and crew, of course, already works full time! This made the short time scale all the more terrifying, but our fearless team of performers still found the time and energy for at least one rehearsal a week.
So, there I am, early-October, looking at the bones of a script used many years ago, unclear to anyone who hadn’t been there during the original performance. Thus begins a good week of editing, which continued into the first few rehearsals (alas, some things just don’t come across as well on stage as they do on paper).
I’m aware that a pantomime isn’t the most serious performance any of us will ever do. I know that mistakes and cheesy lines, if anything, add to the overall flavor. But that doesn’t mean it was something we didn’t have to work hard at, or that it was something that didn’t require a lot of thought and dedication.
Luckily, with a well laid out rehearsal schedule and the motivation of our team, we were able to pull something together which was coherent and even contained several theatrical elements (including the dances from our wonderful resident choreographer Hakeem Bin Rosdi, Brechtian removal and addition of major props – in this instance adding to the humour – hand-painted backdrops projected up from our talented and hardworking set designer Alex Griffitts, and much more).
|Above: The panto cast mid-dance|
The entire performance team and crew have been fantastic throughout, and I cannot sing their praises enough. Even those who felt they weren’t doing enough to help still provided a flawless and important service. We really did have a fantastic, dedicated team.
The team’s dedication is a large contributing factor to the main thing I think we will all take away from the pantomime experience: Fun. Each rehearsal was filled with laughter and chaos: actors trying out new ways to enter the stage or deliver their lines, testing out props which, off the stage, seemed ridiculously out of place, and our beloved Daisy cow testing the limits and intonation of her scripted [distressed mooing]. It was difficult not to have a good, hearty laugh with good, hearty people working hard towards a common goal – silliness which benefitted the end performance massively, as the lighthearted fun we had had whilst rehearsing was now a standard part of the entire performance.
The most important feedback, however, was the reaction of the students in the audience, which could be heard from my hidey spot behind the curtain on the day. Their cooperation was amazing and really brought a light to the performance that we hadn’t been prepared for. Rarely do children back home respond as positively or enthusiastically as these students did, perhaps because it is something foreign and different, an exciting cultural event that is not a given part of their usual Christmas celebrations.
The Chatteris Pantomime really helps these children with learning a new language, as even very low proficiency students can join in and have a good time. Words are provided on the backdrop fairly frequently, which aids those students who are stronger in reading than listening, and the interactive element allows them to also improve their speaking skills. The best part, however, is that they are learning outside of the classroom environment – doing something fun whilst getting an education is always preferable to a stuffy classroom!
Overall, the Chatteris Pantomime was great fun and a pleasure to be a part of. If the chance for an end of year performance was offered to me, I would jump at the opportunity to do it all over again!