Would you like to see a pantomime that’s a little bit different? Oh yes you would! Having caught the immersive theatre bug again recently, I was intrigued how a well known format such as panto could possibly work in promenade. Especially given that this requires you to go either by yourself or in a pair. So off I went to Covent Garden for a bit of interactive festive fun, courtesy of Look Left Look Right theatre company. This performance is full of surprises, so I don’t want to spoil too many!
Stepping into a small doorway in a road just off the main Piazza, I was led into a small waiting room and asked to drink some ‘Elfa-seltzer’ (in order to be able to see the elves) and shown into an office where Martin the admin elf was having an expletive-ridden meltdown. Rumours were spreading fast that Cinderella and Prince Charming had split up, thus meaning that Pantoland’s big royal wedding was off. This meant a total collapse of the global Christmas eco-system. No wedding – no Christmas. With crisis looming, it was left to me to track down Cinders and Charming, get the wedding back on track and save Christmas for all 7 billion people on the planet. No pressure then.
Having donned my special Christmassy red hi-vis jacket, I was sent on a wild goose chase around Covent Garden market, being met by a series of familiar fairytale characters, in shops and by pillars, constantly being led around by the arm or given bits of paper with instructions with where to go and what to do next. This is the epitome of audience participation and requires a spirit of silliness and total abandonment of your inhibitions, especially as you will probably be given a makeover and then find yourself walking through a busy market with a man dressed as a mouse in regency attire. A few boozy tipples are on offer along the route, which might help take the edge off how ridiculous you think you look. If you are naturally self-conscious and/or easily embarrassed, then this is perhaps not for you. If you revel in mischief, it’s a must-see.
Having met a string of colourful characters, collected various objects and been ceremoniously paraded through the street on a sparkly gold pumpkin rickshaw ridden by another regency mouse (who took great pleasure in bellowing “she’s going to save Christmas!!!” at passers by) it was off to the final location to see if I could save the wedding in the nick of time and save Christmas for humankind. For the record, yes I did and you should all be very grateful to me. There was a saccharine panto finale song with lyrics tailored to specific things on my journey and a complimentary glass of champagne to toast my success.
This is great fun, but it absolutely hinges on you being happy to go along with it and engage with every character. They will improvise their scene with you (and the other person you’re with), they will talk to you and expect you to talk to them. Be prepared to throw yourself into it wholeheartedly and you will have a delightfully daft evening. Oh no you won’t? Oh yes you definitely will…
Once Upon a Christmas is on until 15th December. This promenade (walking) performance takes place outside around Covent Garden Market. Wear comfortable shoes and wrap up warm! Take an umbrella if needs be. You must be 18 years or older. Contains some strong language. For tickets and information, go to http://lookleftlookright.com/site/?page_id=848