Opinion: Matthew Munson – A new found love for panto

Fun at Cinderella

I’ve never been much of a panto watcher; it’s not the first thing I’ll think of when planning a trip to the theatre. But I’ve worked on a few in my time (and don’t ask me any more details, as I ended up on stage in one show and I’m not sure you’d believe me if I told you that story), and my son went to a panto with his friends recently … so I was content in the knowledge that I wouldn’t be called on to do this particular duty.

But Bryan came home in hysterics; he had loved the panto,  and spent the rest of the day talking about it. In fact, he raved about one of the songs that much I contacted the ever-wonderful Lisa Payne – actress extraordinaire who Bryan said was “brilliant” – to get the lyrics so we could sing it at home.

Bryan then dropped a couple of hints that he would willingly see the panto again and wondered if we could go. Hints are one of the few things he’s not very good at, so I braced myself; do I take one for the team? What do you think?

This week, I found myself sat next to an incredibly excited eight-year-old as we got ready to watch Cinderella at the Sarah Thorne Theatre in Broadstairs. If you haven’t been to this treasure of a show house, then you’re missing out; I love it there.

We shouted and laughed and sang with the best of them and I had to shake myself as I found myself getting into the show. I think that says more about the quality of the performance than anything else; Sarah Thorne, so I hear, is developing something of a reputation for converting people to the panto cause – they certainly did me.

It made me smile to hear Bryan singing along so happily, and at one point I thought he was going to have an embolism as he laughed at the Ugly Sisters. I’d take that as a compliment, lads … sorry, ladies.

We had an excellent time and we walked home together afterwards in the dark; the buses were running late, so it was going to be quicker on foot. We amused ourselves by looking at all the houses with Christmas decorations outside; a lot were very tasteful, and a few looked like Santa Claus had dropped a spare sack of glittering lights everywhere. I gently navigated him past the more over-the-top versions, worried – rightly so – that he would ask for some adaption of them outside our own place. I feigned deafness and he soon gave up the more outlandish suggestions. That doesn’t mean, however, he’s forgotten about them, and I’m sure the hints will come out.

By the time of my next column, Christmas will have come and gone. We’re figuring out our traditions as we go this year, and I suspect that next year will be more normal as we will both know what to expect.

I get to give a little boy the gift of Christmas, and that’s a huge privilege I hope never to forget. We’ve lived together for nine months now, and this symbolises something for us – a turning point, as we focus on our first full year together.

But this festive season is a special one for both of us and we’ve celebrated it this weekend with our first ever panto together. I couldn’t have thought of a better one than Cinderella at the Sarah Thorne Theatre. You have a special place in our hearts.