A community theatre group based on the Saanich Peninsula will offer their seasonal take on a classic piece of literature.
The Peninsula Players — whose history dates back to 1953 — will perform Alice in Pantoland at Sidney’s Mary Winspear Centre starting Dec. 23 through Dec. 30 with the cast taking a rest on Dec. 25 and Dec. 28.
Pantomime is a contemporary form of musical comedy, whose sources often include familiar fairy tales, which undergo topical, humorous modifications.
“Pantomimes are traditionally put on at Christmas time,” said Allan Haynes, who will direct the play. “They became popular in the UK about 140 years or so ago and they have grown in popularity. They generally run from somewhere in the middle of December to somewhere in middle of January.”
Some 20 years ago, they started to gain popularity in Canada, said Haynes.
So what is Alice doing in Pantoland?
“Well, she follows the (White Rabbit) down the rabbit hole and when she gets there, she finds out that Pantoland is the place where all of the pantomime actors live during their off-season, when they are not working. They all have to have second jobs there because they don’t earn enough money to live off their pantomime. So they are shopkeepers and things like that.”
Alice’s arrival coincides with the scheduled coronation of Prince Charming.
“But there is a problem, in that Prince Charming has gone missing and the Ice Queen, a very evil Ice Queen, is planning to take over the coronation and become the ruler.”
It goes without saying that she does not aim to become a benign ruler, but rather exploitative.
A cast of 13 ranging in ages from 11 to 60 years will perform the show, said Haynes.
“It’s quite a mix of people, which is one of the things I enjoy about it.”
The younger cast members, some of whom still attend school, learn from the more experienced actors, he said.
“And the older people feel rejuvenated by working with the youngsters, who are inevitably more lively than the older ones. I like having the younger ones, because they often stay a few years with us and it’s nice to see them develop over those years. Some of them are very good when they come to us. Others are a bit shy when they start.”
Back to the play, how does Alice help resolve the unsettled politics of Pantoland?
“Well, she comes up with some good ideas to rescue the Prince and to capture the Queen,” said Haynes. “And she relies on Robin Hood to execute them.” So there is a happy end for Alice and Prince Charming. “That’s left a little bit hanging in the air,” said Haynes.
Do you have a story tip? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.