Once a year, we make a pilgrimage to Belleville with a bunch of our Ottawa friends – a chance to get away for a weekend.
It’s ideal. It’s far enough away from home to make it a little adventure. There’s a Goodlife Fitness located in town where we can go make a ruckus at an unsuspecting step-aerobics class together (all our friends are fellow group-fitness enthusiasts). It’s located near Prince Edward County, which gives us a tourist and wine-lover’s hotspot to visit if we get bored. And to cap it all, we have a free and spacious place to stay – with the parents of our friend Jenn generously giving up their house at the drop of a hat (Thanks, Paul and Mary Ann!)
It’s a lot of fun, and we’ve been doing this every summer since 2012. Sadly, plans for summer 2014 didn’t work out, so we were starting to fret that we would miss our “Bellevegas” gathering altogether as year end loomed near. It looked like a tradition would be broken.
Then the hometown girl, Jenn, came through with a plan: the holiday panto in Stirling, about a 20-minute drive from Belleville.
You all know what a panto is, even if you don’t recognize the name. Your parents took you to at least one as a child. It’s just a play, but one where children are encouraged to boo and hiss when the bad guy comes onstage, or to cheer for the good guys. It’s interactive fun for families.
But that’s not quite what Jenn was proposing.
There’s a theatre company in Stirling that mounts a panto every holiday season. It’s usually based on a classic children’s story or fairy tale, and every afternoon they put on a show for the kiddies. But then, come evening, they revamp the whole show and put on a naughty version for adults only.
That sounds more like it!!
Jenn, who has been to several of these, promised it would be uproariously funny. Frankly, she undersold it.
The show was brilliant. This year’s play was based on the Three Musketeers and it was by turns bawdy, crass, lewd, punny, and ridiculous – and the actors were constantly breaking the fourth wall to interact with the appreciative audience. Like a great Carol Burnett Show routine, the actors were working overtime to crack each other up onstage, which just added to the entertainment. Of course it probably helps that the company does encourage alcohol consumption in the lounge area at intermission, but the show would have been funny even without the booze.
Naughty Panto won us all over and I’m happy to say that this will now be a recurring event in our calendar year. It might even replace our summer Bellevegas visits! Or maybe we’ll go twice a year, depending on whether Jenn’s parents are amenable.
Oh! And as a bonus (as if it hadn’t been a wonderful enough evening’s entertainment on its own) I held the winning ticket in the 50/50 draw, with a prize of more than $300. Score!!!