The pantomime season is upon us (oh, yes it is), but are these innocent stories really for
children? Words: Steve Cramer
If the proverbial space alien were confronted exclusively with theatre as a guide to our culture, he might fly away saying, ‘Sex, sex, sex - it’s all children ever think about’. The Christmas panto season beckons, and it’s the dark, undiscovered world of sexuality that is the central tenet of these rites-of-passage children’s shows.
Take the deeper Oedipal subtext of Jack And The Beanstalk. The adolescent Jack is sent by his mother to market. He rejects the mother cipher of the milk cow and asserts his incipient maleness, purchasing the male fertility symbol of seeds. They grow into the beanstalk, whose obviousness as a metaphor for the changes in Jack’s body needn’t be dwelt upon. Through his beanstalk, he confronts the giant father figure and slays the source of his Oedipal resentment, before returning to the adult world of sexuality, as he marries and receives money.
Such archetypal dilemmas are ever present in the panto, where children are given a vicarious introduction to adultness. Being allowed to sit in a darkened room and shout “oh, no you won’t” at grown-ups is a rare privilege and a disruption of the normal hierarchies. Within this atmosphere of carnival, it’s easier to teach children the lessons of the hard life ahead.
Beauty And The Beast tells us of a young girl’s introduction to adult sexuality. Cast out alone in the world, she must learn to love a big sweaty, hairy, smelly, ugly beast - or a geezer, if you like. So too for Cinderella, of whom the penetration metaphor of
Beanstalk . . .'
‘Take the deeper Oedipal subtext of Jack And The
Filthy or frilly?: Dorothy Paul (right) illustrates the deep cleavage which divides panto watchers pictured here in Cinderella with Andy Grey and
slipper and foot (there’s always a penetration metaphor -— think of Sleeping Beauty’s trouble with pricks) and fertility emblem of the pumpkin tells us much.
Some venues do offer different Christmas shows. The Scottish king of this kind of theatre is Stuart Paterson, whose new adaptation of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan - while as highly theatrical as panto — concentrates more on the literary merit of this beautiful text than such things as audience participation. ‘If you removed Shakespeare from the equation, this would be one of the ten great plays, up there with The Cherry Orchard and The Importance Of Being Earnest,’ Paterson reckons. ‘Scotland has produced a great play; it’s this one, but people don’t think so, because it’s seen as a children’s play.’
So, dark and dirty stories, or good, clean fun? As Paterson says, ‘They do tell children that there are some terrible things in life, but they also say maybe it’ll be okay in the end.’
8—Sun 12 Dec. EDINBURGH
Babes In The Wood Collier Theatre, Wed 15—Sat 18 Dec.
Beauty And The Beast Mitchell Theatre, Thu 16 Dec-Sat 8 Jan.
Jack And The Beanstalk RSAMD, Mon l3—Sat 18 Dec.
The Magical Adventures Of Peter Pan
Dec-Sat 22 Jan.
Dec—Sat 8 Jan.
Pavilion Theatre, until Sat 22 Jan. 3—Fri 24 Dec, Mot er Goose King’s Theatre, Fri 3
Dec—Sat 22 Jan. GENT RAL Mother Goose Paisley Arts Centre, Thu
2—Fri 24 Dec.
Sleeping BeautyTron Theatre, Wed
Beauty And The Beast Brunton Theatre, until Sat 8 Jan.
Babes In The Wood Church Hill Theatre, Wed IS—Sat 18 Dec. Cinderella King’s Theatre, Sat 4
Christmas Experience Netherbow Arts Centre, Sat 11 Dec. Peter Pan Royal Lyceum Theatre, Fri 3
The Little Lamp Theatre Workshop, Fri
Babes In The Wood Palace Theatre, Kilmarnock, until Sat 8 Jan.
Beauty And The Beast Adam Smith Centre, Kirkcaldy, Fri 10 Dec—Sat 15 Jan. Cinderella Carnegie Hall, Dunferrnline, Tue 14-Thu 30 Dec.
Cinderella In The 21st Century Falkirk Town Hall, Fri 3-Sat 11 Dec.
The Happy Prince MacRoben, Stirling, until Sun 12 Dec.
Little Snow White Cumbernauld Theatre, until Fri 24 Dec.
Mother Goose Motherwell Theatre, until Fri 31 Dec.
The Princess And The Goblin MacRobert Arts Centre, Stirling, Tue 7 Dec—Sat 8 Jan.
The Seven Voyages 0f Sinbad East Kilbride Arts Centre, Wed 8-Wed 22 Dec.
Sleeping Beauty Greenock Arts Guild, Fri 3—Sat 18 Dec.
Reading between the lines.
MAKE NO MISTAKE, the world of stand-up comedy is a tough one, so we can't but admire the enterprising approach of The Stand, a powerhouse of inventiveness when it comes to discovering new markets for comedy. Their latest success began quietly back in May. 007': Out On Tuesday, a monthly gay-friendly comedy club, has built up quite a following since then, and is set to extend its popularity with this month's show, on Tue 14 Dec, with Clare Summerskill topping the bill.
You might remember Summerskill's popular Fringe act of 1998, What Lesbians 00: Live On Stage, which set out its stall with deft comic craft and an inclusiveness which endeared itself to both hetero and gay audiences. The Stand is always on the lookout for new comics with a gay slant. If you're willing to risk a stint behind the microphone, call Fiona on 0131 558 7373, and enroll in the free comedy classes which will begin on Sun 6 Feb 2000.
TAG THEATHRE COMPANY'S reputation for engaging with current social issues is well-earned, and their latest foray into the field of community politics might pay long-term dividends. Congress Of Nations is a project which intends to bring children into democratic processes through theatre, the Internet and a climactic encounter with the politicians themselves.
The professionals at TAG have encouraged the children, aged between nine and eleven, to develop their own 'virtual' communities, and will facilitate, through role-play, the children's capacity to develop responsibility for their communities, real and imagined. At the end of this process, from Thu 9-Sat 11 Dec, there will be a congress at Parliament itself, and the children will be invited to interact with a number of prominent MSPs.
Oot on the town: Claire Summerskill
2—16 Dec 1999 THE LIST 57