Christmas Customs: The Pantomime Sinbad in Nanaimo
A Christmas custom unique to England and some former colonies is the pantomime. This British tradition has its early roots in the Middle Ages, but by the early 1700s evolved into the form that we see now. The British Pantomime is traditionally performed around the Christmas season.
The links to British history are clearly seen in the geography where I live -- Vancouver Island in the Province of British Columbia. Early European settlers to this area were predominantly from the British Isles and many traditions carry on here. A particularly enjoyable one in Nanaimo is the Christmas Pantomime performed by the Nanaimo Theatre Group. This year's presentation is a twisted tale of Sinbad the Sailor. In keeping with the rules for pantomime, this is a tale of good versus evil with good winning in the end.
Of course, pantomime being what it is, there are strict rules to follow. There must be:
- broad humour with goofy puns and very silly jokes
- slaptick comedy
- lots of song and dance
- a morality play of evil attempting to cause disaster and good finally prevailing
- a focus on children in the audience
- women dressed as male characters and visa versa
- audience participation
- a happy ending
In British style panto there is no miming, only rollicking good fun. In this fractured tale of Sinbad, written by local writers, P.Harris, S.Coultish and I. Matthews, Sinbad mistakenly takes the Diamond of Discord from the Witch of Discord who sows misery until she is overcome by the Goddess of Good and the timely help of the audience. Along the way there is song and dance and romance, a giant purple octopus and reuniting of lost partners.
My personal favourite was the Witch of Discord. We got to boo her whenever she was on stage. Next year, if you see a theatre group performing a Christmas pantomime, or Panto, take your kids. If you don't have wee ones to take, go with someone who likes to laugh because you are guaranteed to do so.