What’s so special about the Panto?

Patt Ryan

Director: Patt Ryan

I have been involved with the Altona panto’s since 2004, always on stage, until this year, when I took the reigns of Director and Choreographer.  I have always locked in the first three months of the year to be able to do the panto at Altona.  So it was a weird step, going onto the other side of the fence with this.  Seeing the panto in a different light as to usual made me think about why I do it.

Discussions afterwards about how the panto stands out amongst the rest of the amateur musical theatre scene in Melbourne revolved a lot around the relaxed nature of putting on this show.  My idea behind the real beauty of the panto, and the reason why so many people come back every year, or want to become involved, is because it’s an escape.  It’s an escape into your imagination, or into someone else’s, where the normal rules that govern your every day life are suspended, if only for an hour or two.  As an adult, I almost become child like again (and on the odd occasion, I may also be quite childish), but you remember what it was like to be able to just have fun and not care.  The jokes, the characters, the people around you…if you take it all too seriously, then you miss out on what is actually happening.

During the rehearsal period, it doesn’t feel like you are stressing about putting on a show, but instead its relaxing catching up with your friends three nights a week, and before you know it, you have created a show together.  There is hard work involved with the show, as you would expect with putting on any sort of entertaining show for an audience, but when the panto is done right, it doesn’t feel like hard work.  It feels fun.  And I have loved that feeling when I have been in the cast.  You don’t get it anywhere else.

Being onstage in a panto, you would be a fool to try and take yourself seriously.  Your character is usually over the top, your lines consist of childish puns or “Dad” jokes, and the person next to you is in exactly the same boat.  You do this show because you end up laughing while you make the audience laugh.  You roll with the punches, you interact with the audience, and you have fun up there.  You really do feed off every single person in the theatre… the people onstage, and the people watching you.

The reason I do the panto every year is because I do believe that laughter is the best medicine.  And being a part of the panto delivers that medicine to everyone involved in it.  To make people laugh is one of the most rewarding things anyone can do, and doing a panto at Altona almost guarantees laughter from cast and crew, as well as the audience.  It’s a simple equation to work out why I do the panto… Panto = Fun.

Patt Ryan.

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