By Alix Norman
Luckily, it’s not behind you. It’s all still to come. Yes, everyone’s favourite event of the year is imminent, and you’d better get your socks on, because tickets sell out faster than the Dame’s hot cakes! A riot of everything that’s traditionally best about Christmas pantomime, ACT’s The Pied Piper of Hamelin is set to storm the stage… and all that’s needed to raise the roof is you, the audience.
If you’re marvelling at the plethora of clichés in that first paragraph, I had my reasons: panto is ALL about the clichés; it’s what makes this theatrical spectacular great. There’s always going to be a larger-than-life Dame, a long-legged Principal Boy and a feisty Principal Girl, a comedy act (or two) and an evil villain. You know there’ll be dreadful jokes and wonderful costumes, a riotous ghost scene (or in this case a yeti scene!) and oodles of sweet throwing, catchy tunes (‘I Gotta Feeling’ by the Black Eyed Peas, and ‘Happy’ by Pharrell Williams both pop up this year) and a delightful ending. And it’s these delicious staples that make the annual ACT panto such a hit with local audiences – and the cast – year after year.
“For me, it’s getting to wear the bra again,” grins Graham Thomas, the Dame. A brief sidenote here for those unfamiliar with the peccadillos of panto: Graham is not a closet Christmas cross dresser; the main female lead is, in fact, always played by a man. And frequently by Graham Thomas, who’s thrilled to see this season’s cast include many of the regulars as well as a number of the younger actors stepping into larger parts. And, really, this is what pantomime is all about: getting together to create lasting memories for the kids.
“Pantomime seems to have a big impact on the children,” agrees director Mike Baulch, who’s back in charge for the ninth time. “They’ll come up to you months after the performance and tell you about it, relate bits of the plot; it may be a lot of work for all concerned, but it’s definitely worth it. And we always have a lot of fun.”
With a script that includes lots of topical jokes, The Pied Piper of Hamelin has been adapted to titillate the tastes of local audiences. And though it may not be familiar to everyone, Mike hopes that it’s a story that some will know. “It’s getting more and more difficult to find pantomimes that we haven’t already done,” he says. “But The Pied Piper is new; it’s a great script and hopefully some of the kids will know it.”
Whether you’re familiar with the story or not, this is a tale for all ages. Set in Hamelin (and costumed accordingly, with a nod to Hanoverian Jacobean fashions), it tells of a town beset by rats. Enter the mystical – and lyrical – Pied Piper (played by Jo Taylor), who promises to solve the problem: “On your vermin I’ll wage war, And then your rats will be no more. On my pipe a tune I’ll play, And quickly lure your rats away.”
So far, so good. But the problems start when the duplicitous mayor (Carlo Ioannou, resplendent in appropriately villainous blue velvet) refuses to pay the Piper. At which point our protagonist exacts revenge, stealing the town’s ‘greatest treasure’…
With a full supporting cast of humble Principal Boy (Jill McDonald), his spirited sweetheart (Chrisanthi Livadiotis) and raucous comedy duo Herr Kutt and Rinz (Oscar Dimitriou and Nadine Tsielepis) all doing their best to complicate matters, the scene is set for an evening (or afternoon) of riotous enjoyment. And let’s not forget the talents of the chorus, the dancers from The London School of Ballet and all the backstage crew who help to make this a show and a half….
So round up the children – beg, borrow and steal if you must – and get booking your seats. Now! Because I Gotta Feeling that The Pied Piper of Hamelin is going to make a lot of people extremely Happy this year.
The Pied Piper of Hamelin
ACT’s pantomime takes place at the Satiriko Theatre in Aglantzia on the following dates: Saturday December 6 at 3pm & 7.30pm, Sunday December 7 at 3pm, Saturday December 13 at 7.30pm, Sunday December 14 at 3pm. Tickets are on sale from November 24, Monday-Friday 4-6pm from St Paul’s Parish Office, Byron Avenue, Nicosia / from the ACT business manager on 97 804620 / by email at [email protected] . Further details can be found on the Facebook page www.facebook.com/actpiper