Oh yes you do! Oh no you don’t! Love it or loathe it, the village pantomime is thriving and Christmas is the prime time to go to see your local performance.
The great British panto is often something that farmers both young and old like to get involved in.
With that in mind, we thought we would offer some tongue-in-cheek advice to all the farmers who might be venturing off the farm and into the spotlight this year.
Here are some of the joys and pitfalls of getting stuck into local pantomime.
See also: The dos and don’ts of dating a farmer
- Getting stuck in – it’s the best way to meet all sorts of people in your village, especially if you live out in the sticks. “We don’t have any neighbours, but I now know everyone,” says one farmer’s wife, a stalwart of 15 pantos.
- Getting really stuck in – be aware that if you volunteer for one role, you may well end up with two or three. In a small community talent has to be spread about. Fancy playing the Wicked Witch (she gets all the best lines)? Fine, but are you up for being chairman and treasurer of the Panto Society too?
- Loving Christmas – I mean, really loving Christmas. Even in the middle of harvest when you meet to decide on the script and in November when you have to turn out on a wet night for another rehearsal.
- And talking of the script – as well as learning your lines, you have to enjoy improvising. What happens when another cast member throws a curve ball at you and jumps two scenes? “If all else fails I just stand there and cackle loudly,” says one ‘baddie’.
- Embracing new talent – got a young techno whizz-kid in the village? Get him or her on board to add some special sound or vision effects. “We had a whole load of computer-generated farts, thunderbolts and crashes of lightning this year,” says my Panto mole. This stuff is bound to get everyone’s attention.
- Getting creative – with backdrops to build, costumes to construct and props to put together, there’s plenty of opportunity for a farmer’s trademark creativity and resourcefulness to run wild. And if something breaks with five minutes to showtime, it’s nothing that some baler twine won’t fix in a jiffy.
- Take care when casting roles – family dramas are not best played out on stage.
- Don’t treat the teenagers as if they are still little children – remember it’s the reverse of Jesus’s “Suffer the children”. For any teenager braving the potentially excruciating embarrassment of getting involved, adults are strictly under sufferance.
- Limit the local endorsements – villagers may love a seasonal sprinkling but the visiting grannies and friends in the audience will be a bit non-plussed if you pile on ads for your free-range turkeys Grundy-style.
- Stick to the script – never, ever write your own panto. There are plenty of good scripts out there and everyone wants the old favourites. “What’s wrong with Sleeping Beauty?” bemoaned one villager after sitting through more than two hours of a newly penned production. And as for your own jokes – they’re never as funny as you think they are going to be. Blame someone else for the double entendre.
- Don’t panic – any am-dram production is always a disaster until a few days before the dress rehearsal. OK, well, at the dress rehearsal. Have faith and break a leg.