Why panto is the "perfect antidote to the trainwreck that 2020 has been"
Oliver Byng is promising “the perfect antidote to Covid depression” when panto – in its new, safe 2020 format – hits the stage at Shoreham’s Ropetackle.
Oh Yes It Is! – A Family Christmas Adventure is the show, featuring just three in the cast, Oliver plus Joe Meloy and Grace Holroyd in a new kind of panto specially written for these extraordinary times.
It’s been a tough year: “Definitely there have been moments when I have struggled,” Oliver says. “Especially in this career there are moments when you doubt yourself, what you are doing and whether it is worth it.
“But what this pandemic has taught me is not to be downhearted when you are out of work and to really focus on the positive and make sure that you have the passion and the drive to carry on.
“And actually that is what is perfect about panto. Pantomime is a celebration of determination. It is always a story about succeeding, about getting the prince or banishing the baddie or climbing the beanstalk.
“I am an optimist. I will never again take being able to work for granted, but I know that this will pass and that we will all carry one.
“And I think everyone doing pantomime this year, in the few pantos that there are, are examples of that perseverance.”
The show at Shoreham’s Ropetackle was originally intended to be Aladdin: “But that had to change. What we are going to do is a real celebration of panto. It is going to be a really fun mash-up of all the bits of pantomime that you love.
“And it will be just the three of us, but we have all worked together with each other in the past.
“We are very close, and there is a real chemistry there. There are only three of us but we are each playing about ten characters so it is going to feel like a lot more. And just looking at the script, I don’t think any of us is off the stage much at all.
“We just work together really well. It is going to be jam-packed with songs and so much slapstick and so much fun and laughter and singing and dancing.
“There is going to be music hall and slapstick and modern-day jokes and political jokes and nudge, nudge, wink, wink.
“It will just be a combination of everything, the perfect antidote to Covid depression.”
And yes, inevitably, the cast feel they do need to mention coronavirus.
“It would be the elephant in the room if we didn’t mention it, but how do you deal with trauma and pain?
“You have got to laugh, you have got to be together and you have got to come together. I think this will be the perfect antidote to the trainwreck that 2020 has been.
“I was doing a show at the Cockpit in Marylebone on the night that they said we all had to go home and not do the show and then after a week we plunged into lockdown.
“There was a hope that this was going to be over after about three weeks, but it has gone on and on, a lot longer than any of us had ever thought.
“But like everyone in the industry you have to adapt. People in this industry are so strong and so passionate about what they do that they are able to change with the times and in line with what is happening.
“Eventually in the summer we were able to come out and do things in a way that was Covid safe with lots of social distancing and lots of hand-washing, and so we were able to carry on.
“And that’s just what we have got to do now, just carry on as best we can.”
Running time for Oh Yes It Is! – A Family Christmas Adventure will be approximately 90 minutes, including interval.
The show will be presented from December 11-31.
Tickets are available from the box office at £15 adults, £13 children on 01273 464440 or http://www.ropetacklecentre.co.uk