Madness? I say it's great anarchic fun
Rehearsal. Oylegate pantomime. The community centre in Cum an Tobar. Last Tuesday night.
Your reporter is embedded with the cast and crew of 'Aladdin'. And it's a war zone out here.
Lead man Cathal Byrne is missing and out of action, sitting examinations at college in Dublin.
The sabre wielding Lord High Executioner (Willie Kavanagh) is present but not correct, absent for his cues as he combines acting with attendance at a community alert meeting in another room.
Costume mistress Gretta Quigley is on the injured list after stabbing herself with a pin.
Members of the chorus wander around in sequined outfits as though shell-shocked.
The Emperor (Cormac Downes) has no sequins, no costume of any kind, and appears in civvies.
In short, everything is just about on schedule tickety-boo for opening night on Tuesday, February 5.
Producer/director/scriptwriter Ray Quigley certainly sees no reason for panic as he takes everyone though their paces.
His career in this crazy (and hugely enjoyable) genre has been seasoned by shows in Clonroche, Bree, Bunclody, Gorey, Castlebridge and Enniscorthy. He been writing pantos since 1976 and the mellow Ray of 2014 has seen it all before. Come to think of it, his audiences will probably reckon that they have heard the jokes before.
'Aladdin' is an allegedly fresh take on the story of the boy with the lamp. But there is more corn here than in a chiropodist's waiting room. Schoolboy gags, it appears, are an essential part of the charm of pantomime and the humour is none the less rib tickling for being on the antediluvian side of mature.
And if you want political correctness, then stay away from the community centre next week. In the course of a couple of scenes there are cracks about mothers-in-law, caesarean sections, capital punishment and (if my ears did not deceive me) self abuse.
This is no-holds-barred sauciness, delivered with liberal sprinklings of local references, big dance numbers with umbrellas, pop songs of any and every vintage, and plenty of cross-dressing. Yes, panto is drag city. This year, Oylegate pantomime society presents a new Dame, with Joe Hayden poised to portray Widow Twankey under a magnificent Dolly Parton wig. A more commanding figure in a green gown is hard to imagine.
It may be madness but it is great, anarchic fun.