This year my children both performed in Panto. First time for them, and the first time for me as a Panto parent. I had done pantomime as a child and I always treasure it dearly, so my excitement was on another level. To get to do it together in the same team too, it will be a breeze.
Our production required the children to rehearse on Sundays in November for the majority of the day. The kids picked up the routines quickly, so some of the rehearsals were shortened. As a parent, this is no problem - dropping the kids - getting Christmas Shopping done (early I know, but I was worried I'd never get a chance!). As a chaperone it was great, you got to see the dances yourself so that you could help the children with bits they didn't quite pick up. The children were really well behaved and started to get to know each other. We had an age range from 6 - 13 and they were lovely with each other. During this time we did have a few children who unfortunately left the show - but the reserves were brill and picked everything up quickly. What was also great was we had boys! Each team had two, how great is that! Boys unfortunately rarely get to be in pantomimes (unless of course it's Peter Pan).
The last weekend in November the children rehearsed with the principal cast and the dancers - popping into their places. Most of the principle cast were welcoming to the children and had a bit of fun with them. They were still obviously getting to grips with the show themselves. Then started the week of evening rehearsals 4-8 each evening - quite hard going for the younger ones. They worked really hard and although there was a lot of time waiting whilst scenes were rehearsed, they were well behaved. We didn't always get to rehearse on the stage, and it seemed as though the bigger the space, the worse behaved the kids were - keep them contained! Chaperoning started to become a little more demanding as the children become more comfortable with their fellow performers. The older girls were completing homework and the younger ones did get a bit bored - but all in all they were a lovely lot.
Once the shows started there were three teams, and unlike other pantomimes who may do a day of shows each, ours rotated one show each. Children needed to be there 35mins prior to show time, but most arrived 40mins or more. There were a few late comers but chaperones got used to these. The children turned up in their make up - a bit of foundation, brown eye shadow and some blusher ( of course, the older ones contoured! lol), the boys weren't required to wear make up - only a little blusher. Chaperones applied the lipstick so that the children all had the same colour.
The costumes were simple, some of the girls didn't like being 'boys' in some of the scenes. Due to having different chaperones some of the kids were able to persuade the unsuspecting mum that they were supposed to wear a different costume - next time we need a list for each kid and what they wear! As with most pantos - the kids are numbered, however we'd have a boy as a number 4 in one team, but girls were 4's in the two other teams. This did cause a bit of a headache during costuming.
Some teams were more lively than others, patience and colouring needed to keep them calm. But they were all such lovely kids. Unfortunately a sick bug struck a week into the show and I would estimate that 50% of the cast were ill at some point - some children were poorly at the end of the run so missed their last shows which was heart wrenching. It's so important that children have 48hours at home when they're ill, even if they seem fine. Some of the principals were having to sneak into the wings to use the bucket - it was that bad! Disinfectant, bleach and hand sanitiser helped to save the day!
I chaperoned quite a few shows, I love it. I love the excitement, the rushing around and being able to be a part (if only a tiny minuscule part) of the show (in a way). Yes sometimes you have to be firm with a kid, but speak to the parents and explain your actions - always. Also ensure the child understands why their behaviour is unacceptable. That's the worse part of chaperoning. It didn't happen much for us though.
So, would I do it again? In a heartbeat. My kids are divided, I think my son would take it or leave it, but my daughter loved being part of a show and team. My husband on the other hand would much rather have gone away! We better start working on him now :)