Sunday, December 13, 2009

Nut Crack-Away, Nut Crack-Away, Nut Crack-Away!!

In England at Christmas I would have been taking Anna to the pantomime.

Oh no you wouldn't!

I love pantos, and I think Anna is on the cusp of really enjoying something like that. The audience participation, the cat-calling and throwing of sweets. She's still not very good with loud noises though - in fact at her school summer production she stood on the stage with her hands over her ears, declared 'it's too loud Mumma!' and exited stage left.

The Nutcracker is far more her speed, not least because she is a truly devoted ballerina and never misses an opportunity to launch in to an arabesque or a jeté. This can be alarming to fellow shoppers at the supermarket as very often it comes without warning.

I think it's interesting that the UK has the Christmas theatre tradition of more low-brow, vaudeville pantomime, while the US is all about the more high-brow Nutcracker. Or maybe I'm getting this wrong and posh kids in England go to the ballet at Christmas? I wouldn't know. It was panto or nothing for me. Growing up in the wilds of North Yorkshire we would always have a pantomime based on a fairy tale every Christmas but we very, very rarely had anyone famous in it. Even actors whose greatest achievement involves a walk-on part in Corrie draw the line at Harrogate theatre it seems.

Santa Barbara though, Lordy Lordy. Not only is it a small town with grand artistic ideas, but it also had two Nutcrackers going on this afternoon, across the street from each other, both starting at identical times. A bit of a minefield if you're meeting up with several other tiny ballerinas from Saturday morning dance class. The street was awash with red taffeta and black patent-leather mary-janes. Anna was so excited, I had to grab her hand to stop her pirouetting in to traffic. LK was gratefully at home watching golf while Lucy napped, perhaps for the first time realizing that being the father of two daughters has its advantages. Anna and I were having 'girl time' as Anna likes to put it.

I wasn't too worried about her sticking out the entire performance, we've been taking her to the movies off and on for about a year now. She will sit still for a couple of hours and is working on sotto voce comments, although this afternoon she did let the surrounding audience know that the ballerina doll in the first act had 'big boobies like you Mumma before they went soggy'. Nice. Plus she was being bribed with an ice-cream at the end.

The first twenty minutes were unbelievable. The dancers twirled in their 'deep dresses' (sighed Anna), I think she was genuinely overwhelmed by the immediacy of having real, live, ballerinas performing in front of her. She sat perfectly still, hands clasped, in obvious rapture. Then the toy soldiers fired a real cannon and I spent the next ten minutes trying to pry her hands off her ears. Still, with the cunning use of Cadbury's giant chocolate buttons meted out over the next hour we made it through the first act.

"Ice-cream" yelled Anna. The disappointment palpable when I broke it to her that this was just the interval. The second half was a lot of wriggling, a lot of hissed 'I want to sit on your lap Mumma', 'when is this over' and 'I want an ice-cream'. Fortunately this was a child-heavy audience so she was not in the minority. There was one bloke a few rows ahead of us who seemed to take every cough, comment or movement personally, but honestly, he was going to a matinee of the Nutcracker, was he expecting a child-free zone?

It's not a little sad that Anna's going to grow up without pantomime. Unless we make it over to England for a Christmas one of these years. I took LK about ten years ago and he had that indulgent smile he has for all things quintessentially English, the smile that says 'you're all completely bonkers'. Instead I can see a lot of Nutcrackers in my future. I'd better bulk buy the Cadbury's buttons.


Anonymous said...

Being the posh bird that I am, I did go to the ballet at Christmas time. There was a brilliant Nutcracker where the tree grew to the whole height of the stage when the toys came to life. And we never went to panto. However, on reflection, I think that this does prove your theory because my Mum is American and stuck to what she knew, giving panto a wide berth! G and I have both performed in panto though, and are more than willing to come and visit and give your family a fabulous demonstration (oh yes we are) xx

Daffodilly said...

Been there & done that! It is distressing that all there is for Xmas is The Nutcracker which is lovely however it gets old after a few years!

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