There are few Christmas experiences as unique, playful, robust and raucous as a Panto. A cherished part of British pop culture and long-standing tradition, a Panto is comedy play, grounded in fairy-tale folklore (Dick Whittington, Aladdin, Puss and Boots) ostensibly aimed at children, but functioning at several levels, for children and adults alike. Audience participation is an absolute must, with songs, booing the villain, shouting help to the heroes, etc…At the center of this chaos and lunacy is The Dame, a man playing a buxom, flirtatious, life-loving lady who is extravagantly audacious and unabashedly outrageous. The Principal Boy is a female ingenue playing a young man (“breeches part”) exploiting the androgynous aspect of youth, when beauty seems less about gender, than simply being fetching. There’s really nothing subversive about all this. Well. Maybe there is. But only in the most broad and splendidly ridiculous way.
Theatre Britain in Plano is currently staging Mother Goose, a riveting tale in which the saucy Mother Goose (Nathaniel P. Reid) must enlist the help of Rodney Faffer (Audrey Ahern) in recovering Lucy, the Goose (Jennifer Middleton) that lays the Golden Eggs, and is the subsequent salvation of the village where they all muddle through the present flagging economy. Demon Damon DaEvil One (Lauren Gao) has cast a spell of sorts on Mother, and made off with Lucy Goosey. Damon loves to nosh on scenery, whilst mocking the audience, who boos her without mercy. From time to time, Rodney must be reminded by the audience, to stop faffing. Apparently “faff ” is British for “vacillate,” and the audience is obliged to help Rodney by reminding him: “Rodney stop your faffing!” There’s even a song dedicated to the problem, beginning with the line : “Don’t get your knickers in a twist, Rodney Faffer…”
There is a special kind of theatrical acumen required (or dare I say, “magic”?) to create the kind of spontaneously avid and rowdy merriment you can only find at a Christmas Panto. As we get older, that kind of glee and exuberance can seem more and more elusive, especially at Yuletide. Theatre Britain has concocted another loopy revue that will have you giggling helplessly and cheerfully shouting along, whenever the need arises. The need for all of us, young and old, to chase those blues away is a given. But not every theatre can supply the tools we need, in just the right way, to make it happen. Comedy is far more delicate sorcery than drama, and the enchanted creatures dwelling at Theatre Britain know just how to bring it off, with éclat.
Theatre Britain proudly presents Mother Goose, playing through December 30th, 2012.
Cox Building Playhouse. 1517 H Avenue, Plano, Texas 75074. 972-490-4202. www.theatre-britain.com