The pantomime dame, played here by Frazer Alexander, is one of the traditional features of Pirate Productions’ “Melusina-the pantomime”
Pirate Productions is putting on a traditional British panto with a twist this November--the story is based on a familiar Luxembourg legend.
“Given the state of the world, I thought it was good timing for a panto,” says Rachel Parker, the co-writer and director of “Melusina-the pantomime” when asked what drew her to this singularly British form of festive season theatre.
“Melusina has all the magic and the right story,” she continues. “It comes in different versions and in different places other than Luxembourg. I was reading some Luxembourg legends, not just Melusina but things like the Stierchen ghost which apparently comes in different forms that can only be seen by horses and drunk people. I though, my goodness, if that isn’t made for a pantomime, I don’t know what is.” She also liked the idea of doing a panto that was not one of the traditional plots--the last one Pirate Productions put on was “Aladdin” in 2012. Pirates had done something similar with its original production of “The Grand Old Duke of York” back in 1998, which was the first panto that Rachel was involved in. “It’s nice when people don’t know the story,” she says.
Melusina is the legendary half-human, half-water spirit who starts life under a mysterious curse that gives her a fishtail once a week. She falls in love with the nobleman Count Siggy (the founder of Luxembourg), but the curse catches up with her. In Pirate Productions’ version, the story is retold in the British pantomime tradition as a musical comedy for all the family. That means it is packed with song and dance, silly jokes for the kids and double entendres for the adults, and characters including the obligatory pantomime dame, seen here rollerskating in a YouTube promo. “What people love about panto is the local jokes and references, so Melusina is ready-made for that,” Rachel explains.
Rachel has worked closely on stage direction and the script with Neil Johnson, who directed the acclaimed Pirates’ version of “Young Frankenstein”. And veteran choreographer Dominique Vitali has taken charge of the dance numbers--the show is peppered with pop songs from the 80s and 90s, from Madness to Eurovision favourites, says Rachel.
Rachel has no qualms about non-British audiences struggling to understand the panto genre and its peculiarities. “If you think about it, pantos are made for kids. The idea is they’ve never been before. We find that people take to panto pretty easily.” It’s special in that the audience is encouraged to join in and shout at the characters and sing along. Though Rachel explains that audiences under 5 may not be comfortable with, especially as the shows lasts two and a half hours, with an interval.