I write this dressed as a large rat wearing a black Elvis outfit staring into a mirror surrounded by the wigs and costumes of our Dame. The usual sensation occurs when faced with complete absurdity and 400 screaming children - It’s so weird that it must right. I’m in Blackpool and yes it is panto season and in line with the root meaning of the word 'Pantomime' I am an ‘Imitator of All’. There is something incredibly refreshing in this definition, it is a kind of liberation from subtext to Imitate All. Everything you do is big, physically and vocally it’s an opportunity to play with the grotesque, especially if you are the villain. As we rehearsed in a small, rundown dance studio with an old grand piano in the corner it struck me that I would like to see and perform this work in a more intimate, stripped back scenario. Perhaps a pub or bar with piano in the corner, no set, no lights, just bare physicality, lewd humour and raucous audience interactions. Looking back at Commedia dell'arte and how the players would rock up in a town square and whip up a lively audience, looking at their masks and physicality I think there could be something more savage than your usual cheesy Panto, that under the gloss of theatre panto there is a raw form waiting to come out….perhaps next year.
Onstage at the Lowther Pavilion
Before panto commenced I began new work with Theatre Re, a physical theatre company that creates heartfelt works exploring memory and all things archetypal to us humans. We started work on their new piece ‘Birth’, in particular we were asking ourselves what is passed down from generation to generation. Part of our preparation was to read The Ancestors Syndrome by Anne Ancelin Schutzenberger, a book that explores psychoanalysis through a person's family tree. Throughout the process of creating this new piece we made our own family trees and searched for what Schutzenberger describes as “invisible loyalties” within our tree. An invisible loyalty is essentially a pattern that is passed down from generation to generation, often without us recognising it, we think we are making our own individual choices utilising our prized free will but in fact we are reenacting our ancestors will or experiencing again the traumer of previous generations. Needless to say, this work was fascinating and as we shared our stories with each other I could feel how these links and actions all lead up to the creation of these people we were looking at and working with. Again the question arose, a question that has appeared before working with other companies - ‘What stories need to be told?’ what are the questions for us now as individuals, what are the questions that still haunt or support us from the past? Well, with time we shall see I am sure.
Photo: François Verbeek