The Metro Theatre Company

Vancouver BC

16 December 2000


By June Heywood

There were thirteen of us – five kids (including my grandchildren, Brodie and Angelia) and eight adult children. Driving to the panto we were all a bit excited. Later, we were each a little hoarse (horse). Boom! Boom! Get it? If not, the humour of a traditional pantomime is probably new to you.

For the past four years, Johnny Duncan has written and directed this long-established annual Christmas treat for the Metro Theatre that combines fairy stories, nursery rhymes, modern music, topical gags, plots and innuendo. It’s a world of make believe where the “Principal Boy”/male love interest – Jack Trott - is played by a leggy female (Taryn Stephenson) and the humorous female lead - Dame Trott - is played by an elderly man (Alan Cedargreen) in drag with an enormous bosom.

Regular panto-goers know that in this fairy tale world you must cheer every time you see Fairy Tu-Tu (Isabel Mendenhall) who is kind and beautiful and speaks in rhyme. This good fairy must also be obeyed. When she tells you that evil Demon Distastely (Gil Hayward) hates the word “Hotdog”, you must shout it out, boo and hiss every time he sneaks onto the stage. From our seats in the stalls, stage right, we jumped up and down and yelled. Many audience members did not. They needed more ad libs from the cast members to encourage audience participation. This would have speeded up Act One and kept a senior child in our party from taking a brief nap.

The audience was starting to warm up at the beginning of Act Two. By the end of the performance, everyone was hissing, stamping, and booing so Gil Hayward as Demon Distastely had to shout to be heard above the din. He was over-the-top great in the part reminding me of Tim Curry in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”. We all loved to hate him.

Brodie (nearly 8) enjoyed the Ghost in the castle, the wicked Distastely in his final fight scene (to the theme from “Star Wars”) and the real groaner puns such as “How do we get milk from a cow?” “Well, it goes in one end and comes out the udder.” There were many others, especially between Trotty and “her” handyman, Willy Nilly (Alex Martin) but I was too busy yelling, stamping, booing and hissing to catch them long enough to write them down.

Angelia (nearly 5) loved the good Fairy Tu-Tu because of her beautiful clothes and the stars that appeared on the walls every time she appeared. She also liked the Ghost and the Demon. My little granddaughter also bellowed at the top of her lungs, “There’s Mary,” each time she recognized our friend Mary Clark in the ensemble.

My favourite part of the show was when Dame Trott asked for three volunteers to help her sing a song to the tune of “Daddy Wouldn’t Buy Me a Bow Wow”. Before the request was over, Angelia had clambered onto the stage. Her smiling little face and strong, confident voice as she sang solo, filled me with exquisite joy.

Later, when the panto was over, the cast returned to sign autographs. Brodie had told me a few days before the show that Angelia wanted to be a singer, actor and writer of songs. I believed it when I heard her asking the players to sign her program then in a clear, slow voice, giving them HER phone number. No wonder I was a little hoarse - with love and pride.