Although they have done them in the past, this year they decided to actually call the show they are doing a pantomime to introduce Prince Albert to the concept and the tradition of pantomime.
“Pantomime is a British tradition,” artistic director, David Zulkoskey, said.
“It tends to happen around Christmas, so it goes from Christmas to early February, and they call it the Panto, or Pantomime in England.”
“In England the audience will even call out ‘look out behind you’ and they’ll boo or they’ll hiss when the evil characters come on. And the girls have experienced that in the past, in the sense that after the show, when they meet and greet the audience, often times little children won’t interact with the evil characters, or they immediately turn their heads away and the good characters, they’ll run right up to them,” Zulkoskey said.
“The greatest thing about a pantomime is the audience isn’t just watching the story, we want them to be a part of it. So then they really feel like they’re a part of the story, which makes it so much greater of an experience, so much more of an impact. And that’s what we really want with a pantomime. You know we encourage them to answer our questions or get involved with it. So that’s the great thing about doing a pantomime, especially with children,” said Jena Mailloux who plays the queen.
The history of pantomimes is long, reaching as far back as the Greeks and the Roman dynasties.
A couple of thousand years later, it became very popular in England during the early 1700. Pantomime is always loaded with comedy and archetypal characters such as the wise woman, the brave but foolish prince, the clever villain and of course the main character, in this case Snow White.
Traditionally gender swapping is also part of pantomime, often adding another aspect of humour to the performance with both men and women performing in non-traditional roles. However the coming performance of Snow White does not use this technique.
This rendition of Snow White has a few surprises.
“It has a different twist to it. She doesn’t try to kill her once, she tries multiple times,” said Peyton Rindal, the mirror on the wall who also acts as the plays narrator.
“I think it gives it more drama and like more effect, like how people view the queen and how she hates her (Snow White) so much. And it really builds the tension between Snow White and the queen,” Mailloux said.
“There’s lots of exciting new twists … but it is pretty similar to the classic, so I think the audience will really enjoy just the extra little bit that is added in,” said Rindal.
“The characters interact with the audience, so you’re walking through the audience, talking to the kids, or you could be up on stage and you go down and grab a kid and the kid comes up on stage with you. Hopefully,” Rindal said.
Nine separate elementary schools across the city have booked The Carlton Mad Hatter Theatre Company to come and perform Snow White.
“I think what we’re looking for is a child-like attitude, a willingness to believe what happens on stage,” Zulkoskey said.
Character development is important and Mailloux is working to get into the psyche of the queen, to become that girl that the viewers can see that selfish girl that everyone knows in their own lives.
“I mock the audience, I kind of get right in their faces, I slam a box right in front of them … I mock them in terms of saying I’m beautiful than them. So that is actually directed towards an older audience,” Mailloux said.
“Basically the whole reason that I want to kill Snow White is because I’m conceited,”
Sarah Tweidt is enjoying her more likable character, Snow White.
“It’s the fact how the children are just intrigued by you and just love you … Snow White has a very innocent and very out-there personality. Like she loves nature and just loves everything around her. And I think when the children interact with me, it’s just, it’s a really cool experience to just go up to them and they give you hugs and stuff. I can’t really explain it but it’s just kind of an honour to do,” Tweidt said.
“In the way that she doesn’t manipulate people, she’s very innocent she doesn’t judge people. She looks at them. She doesn’t judge the book by its cover,” Tweidt said.
“In her time period, she’s actually a role model and she’s kind of a hero because she kind of looks out for herself. So in her time period she’s actually quite honourable,” she added.
“What we’re doing with pantomime is we’re inviting the audience to become a part of that play. So rather than just sitting back and watching something on the computer screen on a TV screen, they are actually encouraged to become a part of the play,” Zulkoskey said. -
Despite being thousands of years old, Zulkoskey still feels there is value in this traditional form of live theatre.
“We live in a very different age. We live in a very digital age and the wonderful thing about live theatre is it’s alive. It’s in the moment. It’s happening right then and there and it’s kinda like a creature, it’s like an animal in the sense that it’s moving forward and what happens is, we can’t pause it … the play has a life of its own.
“What we’re doing with pantomime is we’re inviting the audience to become a part of that play. So rather than just sitting back and watching something on the computer screen on a TV screen, they are actually encouraged to become a part of the play,” Zulkoskey said.
Audience interaction includes chase scenes through the audience and audience members who are picked up as though they are rocks under which the actors are looking to find things. People are also brought up on stage and callbacks are encouraged from the audience.
“You can’t just sit there passively and watch the play … You bought your ticket, you’re there and you’re part of the play. And I think that’s the great appeal of this kind of theatre,” he added.
Working on the project since the beginning of September. The Mad Hatters have been performing at the city’s schools for more than 20 years.
The show is open to the public on Saturday, Dec. 1 and Sunday, Dec. 2 at 2 p.m. at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre. This is the fourth year they will be performing at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre.
Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under. They are available at the E. A. Rawlinson Centre box office or online at www.tickets.earawlinsoncentre.ca.
For more information, call David Zulkoskey, artistic director for the Mad Hatter Theatre Company at 922-3115 ex. 330