The Pantomine - God Help Us All…

by Kelly Dillon

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I kinda wish I'd recorded things better at the time, because it's now more than half a year after the panto was performed and everything's a bit hazy. That might have something to do with the copious amounts of cider I felt the strong desire to imbibe straight after the performance, or possibly because all that was going through my head in the months leading up to it was, "Oh God, oh God, why the hell am I doing this?!"

But let me try to go back to the beginning…

We have a writer's group in LOTNA and there's an impressive array of talent distilled in our group. Rather than let that go to waste a suggestion was made to write a group pantomime, and one person was nominated to write it (at that point he was a Very Funny Person, now he's a bona fida Comedian and TV star [extra]). It was to be called 'Captain Jack and the Beanstalk' and I looked at the project with mild interest: I'm a writer but I can't write funny, so wouldn't be any help there, and I certainly can't act. A few months later I was sent a copy to help proof it, and then somehow found myself as Producer (a.k.a. "Props Girl" - yes, it's a superpower). I saw myself being pulled closer and closer in but there didn't seem to be anything I could do to prevent it. After reading the script and finding a character (the 'Fairy Glaumother') that seemed ideal for me, I felt real dread about what may be expected of me.

The next month or so was filled with me saying, "No, no, no, absolutely not!" to the half dozen panto people that tried to get me on board. But like some zombie apocalypse, they just kept on coming… It was during a bout of sickness (possible delirium, hallucination, cognitive deficiency, etc.) that I 'apparently' acquiesced. Honestly, I think they pulled a fast one on me.

In any case, I began learning my lines and going along to rehearsals, not to mention looking for my costume - 'cause hey, who doesn't want to dress up as Summer Glau from that 'kicking the Reavers' collective arse' scene in Serenity? However, midwinter in London probably isn't the best time to be wearing a tiny grey dress, not for a non-acclimatised Aussie anyway.

The night itself was predictably crazy-hectic, with people running around, having unforeseen crises, sudden amnesia, and trying on costumes for the first time (praying to the gods that they fitted). There was in the ballpark of 40-50 people - about normal for a big LOTNA meetup - and aside from the numbers, every camera and video I saw made me shiver. I wasn't on till the second act, so that gave me a good half hour to obsess about the mess I'd gotten myself into.

Our Writer's frowny face

The interval was over, I took my place on stage under the lights and waited for public death by embarrassment, spontaneous combustion, or divine intervention - possibly all three. Ironically, it began with another woman (in the guise of Captain Jack Harkness) trying to hit on me, which isn't the most comforting scenario in the best circumstances. Remembering all the lines I'd painstakingly memorised over the previous months, I opened my mouth and said my first word, and then everything else left my head. Absolute blankness, not a clue where I should go from there.

My mind ran in circles trying to find some trace of the words - I was sure I'd burned them into my memory - but it felt like I was a puppy chasing my own tail. Then I realised something really strange. While all my attention was focused inwards, trying to remember, my mouth had gone on without me and kept talking. I listened to myself speak for a moment and realised that the words were right. Good job subconscious! The rest of the panto was spent in a rather bemused state of letting my voice and body do the work while I sat back and kept out of its way. Speaking to LOTNA members afterwards they said that they had no idea I'd stumbled at all; that painful hesitation had barely lasted a heartbeat.

In all it went well for an amateur production, although I think the writer had been envisioning the actual John Barrowman and Summer Glau performing it at the Royal Albert Hall - something we in no way lived up to. Someone managed to capture and immortalise his frowny face here …

As we mangled the song at the end. We all had fun though, and that's what it was about. We managed to act out our favourite sci-fi characters in wildly improbable situations, created the legend of 'the evil Baron von Lucas' which I'm sure will live on long past memory of the panto, and most importantly, to stuff two of our core (male) members into ghastly Primark dresses complete with jelly filled balloons as breasts - which predictably got thrown around the room at various points during the night.

The evil Baron von Lucas

Interested in seeing a recording of our sci-fi pantomime?

No chance! No, no, no, not ever! I'm spending the rest of my days hunting down the copies and destroying them. (But, to be honest,I did kinda enjoy being Summer Glau for a night.)

P.S. There's currently rumours of a second LOTNA pantomime. Oh God, help me…

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