Panto heartbreak

I wrote the other day that panto is literally the only thing I like about winter. And I wasn’t joking. Panto is like a bright shining light that makes our winter and our Christmas so much better.

I love everything about it. I love watching my daughter perform, of course. But I also love listening to her excited chatter from rehearsals and performances about all the things the girls and the actors have been getting up to. I love dropping her off in the morning for a show and picking her up afterwards. I even love hanging round the rehearsal venue. It all just feels so magical and special. And that’s just me.

For my daughter, panto is EVERYTHING.

It’s not just the highlight of her winter, it’s the highlight of her year. Even in the middle of summer, there are very few days when she doesn’t mention it. It is eight weeks away from reality, eight weeks in her own little bubble, where she performs, soaks up applause, works with professional actors and musicians and has the best time hanging out with a bunch of girls.

All year, every year, she counts down to auditions. They should be just over three months away. SHOULD BE.

A couple of weeks ago, I heard a rumour from one of the panto mums that two dance schools had been contacted about providing the chorus members. I was horrified.

So I sent a casual email to the theatre enquiring when this year’s auditions would be.

To be told that there won’t be any auditions this year. The chorus will come exclusively from two local dance schools. Dance schools which, needless to say, my daughter doesn’t attend.

I can’t describe how awful that felt. Those kids from those dance schools could have auditioned in the past, but they either chose not to or they auditioned and weren’t picked. And now the theatre was going to break my daughter’s heart and a lot of other kids’ hearts too.

I sent another email to the theatre asking if they would consider offering places to last year’s chorus initially and letting the dance schools fill the gaps? Did they realise the commitment these kids had made over the years? In three years, my daughter hasn’t missed a single rehearsal or performance and this is how they treat her for all her hard work and commitment?

My comments were passed on, but they fell on deaf ears. I doubt my comments about the decision flying in the face of the theatre’s own mission statement on supporting the whole community and its commitment to social and emotional development were even passed on. Nor my comment that I hope the new theatre director can live with knowing the damage he will be doing to children’s emotional wellbeing by taking this decision. Because that is exactly what he is doing.

I didn’t want to tell my daughter until after her end of year exams next week, and I carried this horrible knowledge around with me like a big knot in my stomach. I couldn’t relax or enjoy myself fully for the sadness I felt and the knowledge that I had to ruin my daughter’s life by giving her this awful news.

But then, no doubt due to the pressure from myself and a couple of other parents who knew, the theatre’s website announced that there will be no open auditions this year. It wouldn’t be long before one of the girls found it and started messaging the others.

I had to tell my daughter.

I sat her down on my bed and told her as nicely as I could. I’d expected her to scream and shout, even try to run away from me, but she didn’t do that. She’s growing up. But she cried. And she cried and she cried and she cried.

Why would he do that? Why would he ruin her life and her friends’ lives? The panto is the best thing in her life. Doesn’t he know that? Doesn’t he care?

She said she will never recover from it and I actually think she won’t. It is such a big part of her life and it has been heartlessly snatched away from her. November and Christmas will be unbearable for her, knowing that other kids are rehearsing and performing in her show and she can’t be a part of it.

After a while, she tucked herself up in my bed. She didn’t move from the room for four hours. For a long time, she refused any food. Eventually she asked for potato waffles and cheese. Not a meal. Poorly food.

She cried until her head ached and her legs felt weak. The news had completely knocked the stuffing out of her.

She is heartbroken. We all are. We’re angry too, but I’ll keep the anger for another day. It isn’t going anywhere any time soon.

Panto, Tragedy, Panto heartbreak, Daughter

Author: Sarah Mummy

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30 Comments

  1. So sorry to hear that and it feels so unfair they’ve changed the rules like that. You wonder how many from the dance school will even be bothered about panto. I guess the theatre is trying to make their lives easier audition wise? What a shame they haven’t considered all the kids that have worked hard (and repeatedly) over the years for them!

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    • Thanks, so very true! They’re definitely trying to make their lives easier. It would have been just as easy to give all of last year’s kids a chance to go back, then fill the gaps from the dance schools. Those kids could have auditioned in the past, but they chose not to.

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  2. I am so sorry to hear the news, it is just awful and I hope they reconsider. Although I fear too much damage has already been done x

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    • Thanks very much. A lot of damage has been done! There’s no way they will reconsider for this year. I hope they reconsider for next year, but I suspect the panto is gone forever now!

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    • Thanks very much! We’re devastated

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  3. This is heartbreaking and so unfair ☹️
    Have you got any community theatre nearby? If your daughter sings she should try to be in a musical she would love it so much and they would love love love her dance skill x

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    • there are also often local amateur pantos in January once the main ones are over, she might really enjoy one of those. They might not advertise for people but I bet if they were contacted they would include her

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      • I have been in touch with a couple of local amateur groups, so hopefully she will audition in the summer. I’m sure she would enjoy it, but nothing will ever replicate the panto because it was just such an intense experience for her.

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    • Thanks very much! I’ve contacted a couple of local amateur theatre groups, so it’s possible we might find something to partly fill the gap. But I don’t think she will ever find the sort of camaraderie she enjoyed in the panto chorus. She’s not a great singer either, although she’s recently started singing lessons to give her more options of what she can do.

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  4. ahh that is a shame for her, at least she got a few years of panto though, we had the heartbreak last year for my eldest because she was over the height limit… at the age of 10!

    We come from the other side of it where our dance school does supply the juveniles for the panto. This works in the favour of the production company I assume because paperwork, chaperones etc all come from the dance school. Obviously I don’t know which production company or dance schools are involved in yours but I can assure people they do still have to audition and for the children who get the chance to do it it is equally important to them to have the opportunity. Some might have felt they couldn’t audition in open auditions because there is often a feeling in open auditions that the same children are chosen year after year. I agree though that open auditions should be fairer in general.

    Where we are however we have one professional panto supplied by one dance school, a professional one with open auditions, a local one with open auditions and two other local Christmas shows with open auditions. All within a few miles so there are plenty of opportunities all round. Are there any others nearby that she can do instead? Perhaps if she auditioned for something with some of her friends from previous years it wouldn’t feel so different?

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    • I totally get that they have to audition kids within the dance schools. You’re lucky your kids were at the right dance school! It’s not something you really consider when they are tiny and first start dancing. We had one local professional panto using dance schools and this one was special because it didn’t use them. Now there is nowhere for my daughter to go, although we have looked into a couple of local amateur groups. Her two best panto friends don’t live nearby, so they will all go their separate ways looking for new opportunities, which is a real shame.

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  5. Aww! Your poor girl. I am so sorry. It seems so unfair for her and the other girls who were in the panto each year.
    I do hope she finds somewhere else to show off her amazing talent x

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    • Thanks very much! I really hope so too. I’ve got in touch with a couple of local amateur groups, so hopefully something might come up for her. X

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  6. Such a shame! I guess it will be easier for the theatre, but it fails to take into account the commitment of the regular performers. I’m sure some of the dance school participants will only be going through the motions rather than having such genuine enthusiasm, although there are others who will enjoy the opportunity. It’s a bit like a union closed shop or something, just using kids from a dance school or two.

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    • It will be a lot easier for the theatre! I don’t see why they couldn’t phase the existing kids out by asking who wanted to take part again and filling the gaps with the dance schools. Those kids could have auditioned in the past and either chose not to or auditioned and didn’t get in. We are gutted.

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  7. Aww I am so sorry that is unfair. At least she has been lucky enough to do it for all of those years though. Sometimes life isn’t fair and our children have to learn hard lessons but it’s our job as the parent to jolly them along and try and see the bright side. It doesn’t have to be the end of the world, maybe it’s just time to move on. Nothing in life lasts forever unfortunately!

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    • She has been lucky to do it for three year, although she knows girls who’ve done it for six or seven years. The plan was always to do another two (or even three if her school wold allow it in year 10). She will pick herself up, but it will keep coming back to haunt her all through December and will no doubt ruin Christmas for everyone.

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  8. Oh Sarah, I’m so sad for you and your daughter over this. What a shame that the theatre company couldn’t have also considered the kids who were part of panto in previous years as well as the dance schools. I do hope that there will be some way that your daughter can still be involved in panto season, perhaps with a local amateur group instead. I know it won’t be the same, but it might go a little way to filling the gap from not being able to do the panto as she has done previously. Sending virtual hugs your way xx

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    • Thanks very much, I really appreciate that. We’re definitely looking into amateur pantos and shows. It won’t be as intensive as the professional panto, but she will definitely be happier doing something than doing nothing! x

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  9. Oh I am so so sorry, that is horrible. She loves the Panto and you have all worked so hard for her to be there year after year. Just unfair. I wish I could do something. I wish I could give your girl a hug and make everything ok. She has more talent and drive than clearly, these people who made this decision have in her pinky xx

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    • Thank you! That’s such a lovely thing for you to say. It really is upsetting after all of her hard work and commitment over the years. x

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  10. Oh Sarah, I’m SO sad for you all. I know how much you all loved it and it was such a big part of your lives! This is so short sighted of the theatre. I doubt they will change their minds but it is good for you to share your views because they need to know. xx

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    • Thanks very much. It was a huge part of our lives! It’s going to be so strange without it in November and December. I know a few people have let them know their feelings. I hope we’ve annoyed them! x

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  11. I forgot to comment on this when I read it yesterday, as you know I got cross and took to Twitter instead. I do hope that they change their minds, I was horrified to hear that your daughter had gone through this. I’ll drop you an email next time I hear of a production coming to Malvern that has open auditions.
    Nat.x

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    • I really appreciate you getting cross and taking to Twitter! That would be great if you could let us know about any productions in Malvern. x

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  12. Ah Sarah I am so sorry to hear this, a few of my friends are involved in panto so I know how much it means to them, is there another local theatre that offers auditions as there are a few near us? I hope she gets to be involved again soon its just mean of them x

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  13. I can’t believe this, it is so unfair on the kids who have been involved over the last few years who now can’t get involved. I know how much this means to your daughter and it is going to be so difficult for her. I hope you manage to find something to fill the gap.

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  14. Seems such a shame, I know how much she has got out of it in previous years and for all you spent hrs and hours over the whole process you really enjoyed it as much as she does.
    Will they pick different school next year and they may pick your daughters school?
    Well done for trying to get them to change their mind.

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    • Thanks very much. It is a real shame! I’m not giving up, there is another new theatre director now, so I’m going to get in touch with them to see if things can be changed for next year. I know for sure they won’t use my daughter’s dance school as it is very small!

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