Fairy tales meet science fiction in a heady panto
There’s a new prince in Cinderella’s life. He’s brooding and charming and the grapevine says he’s an undercover spy! Would you believe it? Good old Cinders is going to be wooed by James Bond.
Wait. That’s not all. There’s another twist to this heady martini – our man Bond is actually a woman.
Confused about what’s going on? Welcome to the thrilling world of Cinderella, Shaken Not Stirred, a pantomime scripted and directed by British theatre enthusiasts John and Jenny Hall.
In keeping with the tradition of a pantomime, the lead characters of the play – prince included – will be played by women. “At all points the audience will know that they are women, they will be very sexy men,” says Jenny Hall. But, she adds, the men who play women – the Ugly sisters for instance – will have special bras and wigs. The plotfollows MI5 agent Bond, who goes undercover to apprehend the ruthless criminal we all are familiar with as The Wicked Stepmother. “Of course, there will be a ball, and Cinderella will be running off at midnight, everything else stays the same,” Hall assures us.
A form of theatre which traces back to Commedia dell’Arte, pantomime became popular in England in the beginning of the 18th century. It was often considered a “low” form of opera, catering to the masses. It has now become part of traditional Christmas celebrations all over England.
A typical pantomime is full of singing and dancing, slapstick and mild sexual humour and a whole lot of buffoonery. Besides being subversive, the success of a pantomime depends greatly on the audience, which is called on to participate often in the course of events.
“The audience interacts with the characters at critical moments. They call out to the hero if they villain is behind him. There are some set responses, for instance, if a man dressed a woman says ‘Isn’t my skin lovely’, they will immediately chorus ‘No it is not’. These are key moments that the British audience is very familiar with,” says Hall. Given that their production in The Hague will cater to a large number of expats, did they have to work in extra instructions and clues in the script for those unfamiliar with tradition? “We will give them some heads up. Some directions will be put in the programme. But, there are always a lot of British in the audience and a lot of Dutch people are regulars now, so they know exactly what to do.”
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