Around London in 80 days
In these uncertain times, I need a lifeline and a horizon so I have — somewhat arbitrarily I’ll admit — set a date. April 1st will be my horizon ; my lifeline will be the 80 days separating me from it.
And as I cannot go around the world right now, I give you A Mad Belgian’s “Around London in 80 Days” : eighty impressions of London, eighty stories, places, thoughts from my experience of this wonderfully mad and maddening city.
Day 66: Panto
The villain: “Oh yes it is”
The crowd: “Oh no it isn’t”
The villain: “OH YES IT IS”
The crowd: “OH NO IT ISN’T”
I’ve always been fond of the UK’s quirky culture. Ever since I first discovered Monty Python at the age of 14. This is what attracted me here, this is what made me learn the language: I love British surrealism. But I must admit that, of all the bizarre and quirky things I’ve seen or done in this country so far, nothing quite compares to that first time I went to a pantomime.
A friend, himself a regular “pantomime dame” (a key character, usually the hero’s mother, which is always played by a man), had decided to introduce me to this tradition. Indeed, pantomimes are a seasonal treat: at Christmas, most British families will go and see one.
We went to a classic one, “Aladdin,” starring Paul Merton as the dame. I knew (theoretically) what I was in for, but I wasn’t prepared for what was coming: a full auditorium of adults and children actively involved in the play, arguing with the on-stage villain, laughing (though not at the same time —pantomimes have two levels of humour, one of which goes right over the innocent kids’ heads,…). It was like joining a religious ritual in an exotic foreign culture: it was enjoyable, moving, even, despite the fact that I did not really know what it was about.