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Belfast Pantomime

Jack and the Beanstock Pantomime @ The Grand Opera house

December 30, 2011 Chris Caldwell 0 Comments

For the 3rd year in a row I went to the Panto at the Grand Opera House this year. I used to go to the Panto every year during primary school, then in primary 7 it all stopped for about 16 years until my wife’s mother was visiting us from Scotland for Christmas and we were trying to find things that everyone can do together. And I think thats one of the best things about a Panto, anyone from 5 years old to 79 years old can go and enjoy it. It’s bright lights, pyrotechnics, special effects, huge sets, crude jokes and pure entertainment. I’m a massive wrestling fan and the parallels between the 2 are not hard to draw.

Belfast Pantomime

I went to the Panto with my wife, mum, dad, sister, granny and mother-in-law. As we approach the GOH (Grand Opera House) we see through the glass walls kids running everywhere, light up wands and guns(?) and ice cream and sweets being sold from every conceivable place. As we get in and get our seats we realise that we’re probably the only ones here without kids, but we do have 2 septuagenarians so I image the experience to be very similar. My nineteen year old sister then decides that she wants a flashing rotating light gun thing, so when I bounce off to get her one I end up telling the lady behind the counter it’s not for me, it’s for the kids. She looks at me like the teller looks at Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone.

And so the show begins; oh no it doesn’t, oh yes it does! (sorry couldn’t resist) The star of this show is undoubtedly May McFetridge, in fact in recent years they’ve done away with the star names in favour of a 3D section of the show and this has bolstered May up to top billing. The story of the Panto is Jack and the Beanstalk. Basically Jack must slay a giant that has been terrorising his “magical village of Ahoghill” or as the fairy calls it “A hog hill”. The giant also steals his prospective bride and so it’s doubly important that he completes his task. He sells his cow for some beans and when they’re thrown out the window they grow into a magic beanstalk that allows him to climb up to the Giant’s castle. He rescue’s his bride to be and destroys the giant. It all culminates in a wonderful wedding between the two. The story is secondary however, as this is all about the entertainment, and entertain it does.

Belfast Pantomime

As I said earlier May McFetridge is the star of this show from the moment she arrives in a Smart car on stage. Whether she’s heckling people for being too hung-over, getting the young ones up on stage to do a sing-a-long of the music man or singing a broadly Belfast accented version of Lady GaGa’s Born This Way (complete with a bra with mouths that sing along and try to eat people) she knows what the crowd want and she gives it to them. The Panto is also heavily tinged with local references, political, religious and the other. After asking a small girl where she’s from and what instrument she plays (East Belfast and the Violin) she tells her that she heard they were all on the fiddle down there!

Belfast Pantomime

In the second half we’re treated to the 3D, arguably the second star of the show. This is done extremely well with giant ogres hands reaching out to grab you and creepy crawlies appearing to be crawling your way as we make our way through the giants castle. I see a few people taking their glasses off as it gets to the part with the spiders! I was pretty surprised at how well this was done and enjoyed every second of it.

I take this point to mention how well done all the sets were. Absolutely immaculate and the the Giant was sat there in his house reaching from the floor of the stage right up to the highest part of the curtain. Complete with moving eyes, lips and arms. I love this kind of spectacle and judging by the noises form the crowd when he appeared so did the rest of the audience. This was the moment we’d all been waiting for and it didn’t disappoint. The use of local actors was also great to see (and hear). My only complaint would be the amount of “Pop culture” references that were seemingly forced in. The worst of these being the part were the fairy performed a Catherine Tate inspired “Am I bovvered” skit. It just seemed very dated and fell flat with the crowd. It actually made it seem dated (The Catherine Tate show finished about 5 years ago) and I would like to see less of these and at very least more relevant references.

Belfast Pantomime

So all in all we had a great time and I would recommend the Pantomime to anyone of any age. As I mentioned earlier we took my wife’s mother who’s originally English but now lives in Scotland. On the way out we asked if she enjoyed it “oh yes, it was wonderful” and did you understand what May McFetridge was saying OK? “No, I couldn’t make out a bloody word”. So it seems that the Panto, this time at least, even transcended language.

#Belfast#Grand Opera House#May McFetridge#Panto

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