In another twist to a totally upside down year, Saturday saw us head off to the Imperial War Museum at Duxford for – of all things – a Drive-in Christmas Panto.
Produced and performed by The Birmingham Stage Company in association with Horrible Histories this was not your traditional Panto story, but instead a look at Christmas through the years and Sydney Clause’s attempts to ruin the season of good will. In true Horrible Histories style it was heavily laced with facts which were not allowed to get in the way of a completely contrived story line.
We were brought on a journey from the Welsh Valleys to Bethlehem via the court of King Charles through the medium of puns and really, really bad jokes – the sort you just cannot help laughing at, even the groan-worthy Take That one!
There was audience participation in the form of synchronised windscreen wiper displays, horn honking, indicator and headlight flashing. We sang along to the ubiquitous Panto participation song – although doing a variation of the birdy dance sitting in a Ford Mondeo is, well… challenging. However, we had high tech Tudor graphics to ensure none of us got the words wrong – if I’m honest, I may have fluffed a few lines and flashed when I should have wiped!
Our favorite number was The King Charles rap and none of us missed the irony of The Puritans doing a song and dance number.
During our pre show chat over mince pies, red wine and Ghost Ship – our driver wisely ensuring he had the alcohol free variety – I was delighted to hear that these are sell out shows. And rightly so, in a year bereft of live theatre these drive-ins are safe, entertaining and very good value. Whilst different to what we are used to there are some hidden benefits. For example: you can unwrap noisy sweet papers without being told to shush, you need not worry about the bar stocking your favorite tipple and when you do knock the Quality Street tin all over the floor you can sort it out when you get home.
I am a complete convert to these drive-in experiences – laughing out loud with friends at a show is a very precious thing, one of many we have taken for granted for so long and that this year has brought starkly into focus.
My only regret – I cannot get their earworm out of my head – “As sure as your Christmas turkey’s dead, Santa Clause comes to town!” but apart from that we had a really good night – oh yes we did!