Bringing a British pantomime to the stage

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High school drama teacher Meghan Mardus and her students are looking forward to bringing a British pantomime to the Northern Lights Performing Arts Pavilion next week.

They will stage Camelot May 15 and 16.

Mardus said the theatre style is not as widely-known in Canada, though does exist, “but it’s really popular over in the U.K.” She got to know it when she was living in Germany, teaching at a British school for many years.

“it’s just a fun style of theatre. You take a well-known story, in our case, you’ve got King Arthur before he’s a king, Prince Arthur meeting Guinevere. They’re meant to get married and then it all starts going awry. So, it takes a traditional story and turns it on its head.”

She said pantomime has slapstick and local humour. The license agreement with the script allows for them to change the script and insert local jokes and references. “Which is really fun. And it has singing, and dancing.”

They are also following the tradition with pantomime, where the main male character is played by a girl and the main female character played by a boy.

“This tradition goes back hundreds of years… gender-bending and switching genders in theatre has been part of theatre for as long as it has existed, really,” Mardus said. “We’re following that tradition, too.”

She said British panto also includes a lot of audience interaction, and a big “stuffie” character. “Audiences will have great fun with call and response cues, and booing the baddies. And Big Red, our school mascot, is a principal character.”

Mardus added, “It’s the type of show that kids can enjoy. We’re recommending it for ages seven and up but parents know their own kids. If their kid is younger, but can still handle a show that’s an hour and a half, they’re welcome to come.” Of course, it will suit teens and adults as well, she said.

“It’s silly. It’s genuinely so funny and this crew of students, their work with comedy, is fantastic.”

Mardus said a lot of the faces will be familiar as many were in the fall production of Clue.

She added it isn’t just those on stage who have been working hard. She said they had recruited Grade 9 and 10 students to help out with production, from sets to backstage, lighting and sound.

The drama and French teacher is also stretching herself. It’s her first time stage managing. She’ll be in the booth, directing, producing, has sewn costumes and done choreography. “It’s so much fun… a huge amount of work, but it’s been such a wonderful, learning opportunity for me. I’m just loving it.”

In keeping with the British theme of the night, Mardus said Grade 12 student Kaelem Little has designed a menu for intermission, which will include shortbread, rice pudding, Chelsea buns, and angel cake.

Mardus said it was a delight teaching the students about British idioms and phrasing. For example, some did not know a British dress was referred to as a frock.

She can’t wait for her students to bring it all together on stage. “These drama and music experiences for me were just so formative in high school and it honestly just brings me joy to see students having similar experiences here.”

Performances are May 15 and 16, starting at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are available via school cash online ($10 advanced for adults, $5 for children) or by donation at the door.