What does Sinbad, a pirate and dinosaurs have in common?
The traditional British panto begins in a pirate’s retreat called the Duck and Pickle where Sinbad finds he is in a pickle because he has a treasure map but no money to rent a ship, let alone pay a crew. The evil pirate Queen Anne Bonney wants the treasure map, and has gold to spare, so she pays for a boat and crew and accompanies Sinbad on his treasure quest. After avoiding many calamities at sea including a mutiny, icebergs and a superfluity of bubbles, the boat becomes shipwrecked on a tropical island where there is treasure, but also dinosaurs.
“We have to get to the treasure, find it and secure it and battle the dinosaurs and battle Queen Anne and the bad guys and then we all end up happily ever after,” laughed Ellie King, writer and director of the panto.
Pantomimes are stage productions that include music and comedy that were developed in England and are generally performed during the holiday season. The audience is strongly encouraged to sing along with the songs, shout out phrases to the performers and cheer on the good guys while booing the bad guys.
King wants to emphasize that this is a family show.
“It’s not a kids show, it’s a family show and there’s a difference. There’s various bits of political humour and social commentary and stuff like that. And there’s the slapstick humour which is for everybody. And there’s the dinosaurs which are for the kids,” she said.
Every year King writes an original script for her pantos and also the lyrics to many of the songs. Her husband writes most of the music. This year they have written all but two songs. It took King a good part of the summer to write the script.
King fell in love with pantomimes because she loves history and, she says, pantos are a very historical form of theatre that have certain forms that you don’t find anywhere else.
”Much like Shakespeare, the fourth wall goes away and the people speak to the audience directly. And it retains the good side and the evil side as you would find in the medieval morality plays,” explained King.
King makes sure she writes in all elements of the panto format.
”There are lots of other stuff that we keep alive in our panto that you won’t find anywhere else in the theatre world but that use to be common back in the day,” said King.
“As long as you have these elements it’s a panto. But if you are missing even one then it is not a panto,” she said.
Like the element of the journey of the hero or the heroine from rags to riches. To get to the riches, they have to overcome obstacles and they have to grow as people.
”The journey can be spiritual if you like or psychological or it can be physical, travelling from one place to another. But they have to overcome obstacles,” said King.
King has included a couple of sea shanties, or work songs sung by the crew on the boat, in the production.
”We have one that starts off on the stage but the sailors all appear in the house, so the whole auditorium, the entire theatre is echoing with this song, it’s quite moving I quite like it,” she said.
Alan Cedargreen who plays the Dame in King’s panto productions will be retiring this year and he will be doing a special rhyming couplet about soap operas at the end of the show that King wrote for him in 1993.
Every year King also includes a standalone gag, another panto tradition. This year they will be doing a smelly sock gag that dates back to the Victorian era.
What King loves most about pantos, though, is the interaction with the audience.
“The kids in the audience and the adults, shouting back, because it’s highly audience interactive,” said King.
“To see otherwise conservative adults standing on their feet and yelling at the stage. Yeah, that’s a big thing.”
Sinbad, the Pirates and the Dinosaur runs from Dec 29 to Dec. 31 at the ACT Arts Centre, 11944 Haney Place in Maple Ridge.
On Dec. 29 there is a $8 dress preview at 7:30 p.m..
Regular shows run Dec. 30 at 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 30 and 31 at 3.30 p.m..
Adults are $28 and seniors and youth under 14-years are $20.
There will also be a student rush meaning $10 at the door 30 minutes prior to curtain with current ID.
For more information call 604-476-2787 or go to theactmapleridge.org.