I’m not a huge fan of pantomime. I get it, I understand the appeal, but it makes me rather uncomfortable. There’s the threat of the dreaded audience participation looming over you, the fear you’ll be sprayed in the face by something unfortunate, and the tragic innuendos aimed at the adults who do the obligatory embarrassed chortle. The butchered pop songs, the audience full of screaming children, and the dame… a grand tradition in British culture…
This afternoon my mother, me and my daughters went to see Aladdin at the Wolverhampton Grand. It was an experience.
Parking was the challenge of all challenges. Wolverhampton, your city council need to invest in more parking spaces. Desperately.
We drove back and forth around three different car parks, desperately looking for a spot. We saw two separate people headed to their cars only to find both were planning to sit in their cars to eat lunch. Now don’t get me wrong, you’re entitled to eat lunch in your car if you wish, but we have five minutes to get to the theatre and you’re in your car and OH MY GOD.
Eventually we had to compromise. I hoisted Baby B onto my hip and my baby bag over my shoulder, and took Rose in one hand and my mobile in the other. I bid goodbye to my mother, who waited it out in the carpark looking for a space, whilst I used the satnav on my mobile to find the theatre in a city I am wholly unfamiliar with.
Miss Rose did not want to leave her nanny behind and was VERY vocal about it. The satnav was telling me to find roads I couldn’t see the names of across streets that buses, lorries and motorbikes raced at breakneck speeds down. I have no sense of direction and am prone to panicking. I stopped a lovely Polish couple to ask for directions. They had pretty limited English. With the help of the translation programme on his mobile and a lot of gesticulating and smiles of encouragement we managed to work out the direction I needed to head.
We ran. The baby was falling in my arms and watching me with a look of both anxiety as she slid towards the cement, and amusement as I panic screeched past old ladies, dragging the howling four year old behind me as she insisted her legs had died and her face was too cold.
As we rounded a corner I spotted the theatre.
“We’ve found it!” I cried.
“I’m tired!” howled Miss Rose.
“Urgle oof,” grunted Baby B.
“Will the audience please take their seats, this afternoon’s performance is about to start,” announced the loud speakers.
Dragging the girl child behind me I raced up the doors, screaming to a security guard to let us in as he began pulling the doors shut.
With some amused observations about how I was very pink in the face and how my baby looked decidedly uncomfortable, by now her shoulders were up by her ears and her legs and bum were dangling in the breeze, they directed me towards the box office so I could collect our tickets as the tannoy announced we had two minutes.
I explained that my mother was on her way but I’d take our tickets now.
“I’m afraid you don’t have a seat booked for the baby,” she said, eyeing Baby B who was now repositioned on my hip and furiously gnawing on her fists.
“She won’t sit on a seat…” I said, brandishing B, who was now drooling milky spit up and farting, at her. “She’s six months old.”
“You needed to book a babe in arms ticket for her,” said the woman.
Exasperated, imagining breaking it to the tired girl that she wasn’t going to get to see the show she was so excited to see and I’ve been dragging her across the city to get to, I desperately asked her what I could possibly do.
“You could buy a babe in arms ticket for three pounds,” said the supremely frustrating woman.
“The show will start in one minute,” said the tannoy.
I raided my purse, got the ticket, hoisted the incredibly tolerant baby onto my hip, the bag over my shoulder and grabbed Miss Rose by the hand and legged it back across the theatre.
“Running again,” observed the security guard.
And ran I did, right up the stairs whilst Rose charged behind me. We found our seats. My mother soon landed beside us.
I don’t like pantomimes. But Miss Rose was absolutely capitvated. It was fine, it was alright. There was sexual politics everywhere that made me highly uncomfortable as men who had never spoken to Jasmine competed without her knowledge for who was going to marry her, and a gold catsuit wearing “slave of the ring” obeyed orders of men. The genie appearing saw a black man calling the white Aladdin master and agreeing to obey his orders, which again gave me a twinge of the “really??” but it was alright.
When Geordie Joe McElderry of XFactor fame took to his magic carpet to sing and flew out across the audience I found myself crying. Not because of his performance, but because Miss Rose’s face was a picture of joy and magic and amazement. She waved to him, her mouth open, her eyes wide as she stared in wonder. I cried. She believed in magic.
Then came the interval. Oh the interval.
Baby B needed a nappy change so I went in search of a toilet whilst Miss Rose went to the bar with my mum.
I made it through the queue to the ladies loo by our seats and found no changing table. I asked a member of staff who directed me down one level, so I headed for the stairs amidst a mass of bar-bound parents.
Baby B chose that moment to do a big, loud, profoundly pungent poo.
“Where’s the baby change?” I asked on one level down when I made it through the crowds to find a member of staff.
“Down one level,” I was told.
“I was told it’s on this level?” I asked, looking around anxiously through the crowds.
“No,” said the man. “It’s down one.”
Why was I reluctant to head down? Because I had seen the stairs headed down. They were overrun by grey and blue wearing school children. Thousands of them. They seemed to be multiplying as I headed over.
Baby B’s bottom was growing increasingly warm, the smell increasingly strong.
The queue for the ladies loo was immense. Apparently school kids need to pee a lot. I tried to wiggle through, explaining I needed to use the changing table not the toilet. The corridor to the loos was narrow, it was rammed with kids, and some were not willing to move.
I spotted a teacher. I appealed to her with my eyes of desperation and she ordered some children out the way.
Gratefully I explained I needed to get in to change a nappy and she looked concerned and said she hadn’t seen a changing table in there, then called to another teacher to check. Bless this woman, she wriggled through the throngs of children to be sure, but came back and confirmed there was no changing table.
I didn’t know what to do. Perhaps in the disabled? It was occupied.
Luckily a that moment a member of theatre staff appeared and I asked if there was a changing table in the disabled. I was told no, not in there, and then she was gone. Just vanished into the crowds and through a door.
The pongy contents in B’s nappy would not hold much longer. A poonami situation was imminent.
I headed for the stairs again, not a clue what to do. Figuring I’d need to find a toilet that wasn’t too densely populated and change her on the floor. Fine, except there was people everywhere.
A teacher caught up to me. She heard what was going on and told me she’d seen a baby changing table in the disabled toilets one level up. I thanked her and ran. Back to the level I had just come from.
So… disabled toilets.
“Running again?” observed the security guard as I went barelling across the foyer looking for a toilet sign.
I explained the situation and he directed me. I joined another queue. The elderly people ahead of me slowly moved through the process of using the toilets as I slowly moved a step at a time, carrying my smelly baby and nappy bag with me.
As I reached my turn, the tannoy announced that we should all be taking our seats as the show would be starting in three fucking minutes.
I changed that shitty nappy at lightning speed. The contents was approximately two millimetres from busting out the back, and was particularly running. How she didn’t explode out the edges I honestly do not know. I was immensely grateful.
As I headed out I was informed via loud speaker that I had two minutes. Then my phone rang.
“Where are you? I’ve bought you a glass of wine!” said my mother.
“Wine!” I cried with joy as I ran back past the now hysterically laughing security guards.
My mother is a wonderful woman. She had them put it in a plastic cup so I could take my wine into the seat rather than down it in one. Then she fed me maltesers. My mother is a wonderful woman.
The second half irritated me as Princess Jasmine was abducted into sexual slavoury as the villain’s wife, then held down on command by his other scantily clad wives, as she waited to be rescued by the men. Jasmine was, of course, rescued and married of to the now rich Aladdin. One assumes the other wives, who knows how long they’d been the slave wives of the villain, were left wandering the streets of Egypt.
At least the girl, now brandishing a spinning rainbow light, was happy. For now…
The journey home saw me fireman’s lifting a tired crying Rose over my shoulder to get her to the car, then sitting in the back of the car between the two car seats, leaning into B’s seat to breast feed her by contorting across her seat and smushing my face into the car door to stop her from screaming herself sick.
But it was done. We survived.
I don’t like pantomimes but, despite everything, I am so glad we went.
Rose was so enchanted I cried. B stood in my lap giggling and cooing before falling asleep like an angel.
And we don’t do these things for ourselves, do we? We do it for them. And they loved it. So next Christmas, despite everything, you’ll find me back in that theatre watching the next one. And hopefully I’ll avoid any poonami situations that time too.
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Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!