Sadly, the panto is over for another year. But I wanted to share my daughter’s memories of what it’s like backstage at the panto…
We usually do two performances a day and the times vary, depending on if it’s a schools’ performance or a normal performance. We have to get to the theatre an hour before the first performance. On a schools’ performance day, the first show is at 10, so we have to get there at 9.
We’re supposed to arrive with our hair and make-up done and I always do, but some of the older girls do it when they get there. I do my hair and make-up myself. We all have our hair in two French plaits and we have to use grips and spray to keep it in place. Some of the girls get the chaperone to do their hair. If she’s too busy, I will do it for some of the girls. They all know I’m good at plaits!
The first thing we do when we get to the theatre is a vocal warm-up, with the musical director and the adult actors. The vocal warm-up is usually quite good fun. The musical director is everyone’s favourite person and he always makes us laugh. He varies the warm-up, so it doesn’t get boring. The chorus generally don’t actually sing though! We recorded a backing track of all our songs during rehearsal and we just mouth the words. It’s not easy to sing and dance at the same time, although we usually sing the bits we really like!
There are 10 of us in each team. Our team are aged 9 to 17. Two of the girls have a small speaking part and the rest of us are chorus, doing all the singing and dancing and a little bit of acting too.
We all share a dressing room and we also share our costumes with someone in the other team of a similar size. Sometimes the costumes appear in a basket, still warm from the tumble drier! We used to wear red lipstick, which looked really nice, but we were banned because it was starting to stain some of the costumes. Then we just had to wear a pale pink or nude colour.
We get calls over the tannoy. The 15 minute call is a bit early to get ready. We usually get dressed on the five minute call. The beginners’ call is for the adult actors who are on first. They call them ‘Mr’ or ‘Miss’. That’s like our five minute call.
Then we hear ‘Chorus to stage, please, chorus to stage’.
Our chaperone always takes us down to the stage and back to the dressing room and stays with us in our dressing room. When the girls with the speaking parts need to go down separately, one of the ladies from the tech crew chaperones them, so the rest of us can stay in our dressing room with the chaperone.
There’s a lot of going up and down stairs during the performance, as we’re on stage quite a bit, and a lot of costume changes. We have four costumes and one of them we wear a couple of times.
There’s no time to get bored backstage! We’re not allowed to stay in the wings, apart from when we’re due on stage. But like watching and listening from the wings when we’re waiting.
There’s usually something small which goes wrong for the chorus or the adults to make us laugh. People forget their lines and the adults sometimes make up new ones.
At the end of the show, everyone gets changed quickly, so they can get out of the backstage area. Then we have our lunch or tea. Me and the other two primary school girls sit together and eat with the chaperone. We’ve become really good friends. The older girls have to have written permission from their parents to leave the theatre. In the the other team, there’s only one primary school girl and I feel a bit sorry for her having to eat with the chaperone on her own.
We only have about an hour and a quarter between shows.
Then we do it all over again!