It’s that time of year again. Oh yes, it is! That can mean only one thing: the curtain is set to go up once again on the panto season. All UK expats will be familiar with this seasonal tradition and, while the annual Christmas panto does not have quite the same meaning here in Belgium, in recent years it has become more and more popular.
That is thanks in no small part to the efforts of the English Comedy Club Theatre Group which is again putting on a panto in Brussels this year. For the uninitiated, pantomime is an age-old British tradition, which has been delighting children (and adults) for centuries.You get the chance to enjoy plenty of songs, dances, special effects and superb costumes…topped off by all-round slapstick and silliness.Yes, festive entertainment does not come any better!
The ECC will present their fifth show in January – Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood!
This hilarious never-ever-before-seen version of the traditional tale promises to be one of the most spectacular family pantomimes performed on the Brussels stage. The evil Sheriff of Nottingham hatches a wicked plan to marry Maid Marian for her money. But first he has to get rid of the Babes – Maid Marian’s Belgian cousins. It’s down to our most famous outlaw Robin Hood to save the day, with a little help from his Merry Men, his trusty steed and the lovely Maid Marian.
Director Andy Fisk and script writer/choreographer Josephine Draycott, in a Q & A, explain what punters can expect.
Why did you choose this panto?
“Robin Hood is one of the traditional pantomimes and one we haven’t performed yet as the ECC. The script is simply fantastic: we started with an original script by Dom Mattos and Cath Howdle, and then built our own Brussels script –Josephine did the rewrite with edits from Cath and the odd comic one liner from my own Internet search! We think it’s the best script we’ve had for a Brussels panto yet. Good script and good cast, what more do you need?”
Why did you decide to direct this year?
“This is in fact my directorial debut. I love being on stage and have had several principal panto roles on the Brussels stage: Dame, Good Guy and Bad Guy. So I believe this is the moment to give back. And we wrote in a cameo role for me at the end of the show…director’s perk!”
What’s so special about humour in pantos?
“Panto jokes are aimed at a double level — kids jokes interlaced with adult jokes — so we tread a fine line to ensure everyone is entertained. The skill of panto writing is that the jokes stay on the ‘right side’. They also need to be delivered as deadpan as possible, which requires skilled acting. We try to avoid too many double entendres … but it’s very hard.
“It’s fascinating to see which jokes get the biggest laughs – it’s never the ones you expect. Political and Brussels references always work. We encourage improvisation by the cast as we put the scenes together, so the script improves further during rehearsals.”
Was casting this production difficult?
“The casting was difficult in a good way: we had double the number of people showing up for auditions than last year. Sixty people auditioned for principal roles, and I had to listen to about 80 renditions of “We are The Champions”! In the end, we cast 23 principles and 30 chorus members.
“We are always aiming to raise the bar. We have a big chorus full of great singers and dancers and a fantastic set of principals including a few newcomers to our Panto family. We’re casting the next generation! This year we have a mixture of ages in the Merry Men: two adults and six teenagers. The Babes in the Woods are 10 and 11. We are also introducing a new role for us, a mini-Dame who is 11 years old. And this year we’ll also have one of the great Panto traditions – a horse!”
But putting on a show is not just about the actors, right?
“Absolutely not. I have an incredible team helping me. Kerry Lydon is my producer and I have two assistant directors and three choreographers. I have an experienced back stage team – lights, sound, stage management and props – and a super dedicated costumes team. And what always impresses me is the enthusiasm of the parents – helping with rehearsals and always ready to help front and back of the house during the shows themselves.
“We’re five years in on our journey. This is number 6 and I hope it’ll be the best Panto yet – but I have big shoes to fill. Our reputation is spreading – we were over 92% sold last year, and we’ve already sold 20% of this year’s tickets three months before the show … so I do suggest booking now to get the best seats!”
Tickets are on sale now. Last year’s panto was over 90% sold out, so book early to beat the crowds to the best seats in the house while they are still available. The shows take place at the Audergem Cultural Centre in Brussels.
Show Times and Dates:
Friday January 18th, 2019 at 8.00 pm
Saturday January 19th, 2019 at 1.30 pm and at 5.00 pm
Sunday January 20th, 2019 at 1.30 pm and at 5.00 pm
€16 for Adults, €12 for Children. Tickets can be booked online here
Group Bookings of 10 tickets or more for the same show: €10 per ticket. Please contact this email address if you would like to make a group booking: firstname.lastname@example.org