There’s something happening on stage in a galaxy far far away . . . or maybe just in Doha. The Doha Players return this month for their annual pantomime, bringing the fun, laughter and dudes in frocks to centre stage. And this year, they’re heading out of this world.
‘This pantomime is called Space Wars the Panto and is set in space as the title says,’ says director Celia Scott. ‘It follows the traditional pattern of panto with a Dame (who is played by a man) a principle boy (who is played by a girl) and also has an evil queen. The dame is a wonderful mother who loves her son, Mark Sleepwalker, but wants to marry him off to some suspect ladies from different planets. To escape this fate Mark leaves to find his fortune and adventure and true love. The Dame follows with Mark’s best interests at heart and is really a lovable character. She gets into some unusual scrapes as well I should point out!’
Pantomime, with its roots in Italian Commedia dell’arte, has over the years become a particularly British institution, especially at Christmas time. Based on classic fables and nursery rhymes, modern pantomime is often geared towards children, using stock characters in costume who sing, dance and perform skits.
‘They are a traditional entertainment at Christmas for all the family from grandparents down to toddlers,’ says Scott. ‘In the UK many top stars of stage, screen and even singing stars take the lead roles to much acclaim. The audience is encouraged to join in by booing, hissing, cheering, shouting etc with the actors on stage.’
Which isn’t to say the grownups can’t have fun too. Along with its kid-friendly fare, pantomime has a reputation for a good double entendre.
Have your best Christmas in Doha
‘There is plenty for adults too with mild adult jokes and innuendoes that are primarily aimed at adults,’ says Scott. ‘They can sing along with the songs and enjoy the whole family atmosphere of the show.’
The singing along is key. True pantomime is rife with audience participation. First time panto-goers should be prepared to sing along, as well as shout at the stage—and have actors break the fourth wall and shout back.
‘People can expect all the fun and laughter of any panto. They can boo the queen, cheer on the hero (principle boy) in his quest to find the helmet of the one Spaceman, they can help the Dame make sure her son (principle boy) is safe in his journey and join in the many popular songs that are sung throughout the show,’ says Scott.
And while we may be a long way from Pantomime’s European roots, Scott says the tradition has found an eager audience in Qatar, with people from all over the world getting in on the fun.
‘Doha pantos are not really different from the ones back home. They have all the same elements,’ says Scott.
Of course, they do get their own Doha twist though. This year they’re performing in the Qatar National Theatre.
‘Being able to perform it in the Qatar National Theatre is really special to me as it’s such a wonderful performance space and will really add something extra to our show,’ says Scott. ‘Being a Director is always challenging with any show (and I have done a few). The cast have been so supportive and professional in their approach and performances I have been buoyed along by them. I have also had a marvelous production crew who have come up trumps with some great costumes, sets, props, lighting and sound. Finally but not least I have had a superb Musical Director and vocal coach who have made the whole show that extra bit special. I thank them all for their help and support.’
Space Wars, The Doha Players 38th Annual Pantomime at the Qatar National Theatre, Dec 5, 6 at 7pm, Dec 7 at 3.30pm and 7.30pm, and Dec 8 at 3.30pm. Tickets are QR75, including a drink and chocolate bar at the interval, available at THE One in Landmark Mall and Villaggio Mall. Buy one get one free for the opening night only. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 4447 4911