Is taking a toddler to the panto a good or bad idea?

Oh no, we didn’t. Oh yes, we did. On December 12, much to the surprise of the cast, the crew and just about everyone else in the theatre, my wife and I took our toddler to the panto. 

If the two words that you’re currently thinking are ‘car’ and ‘crash’, then you are not alone. When my wife first floated the idea of taking our toddler to the panto, I had visions of theatrical carnage. Less “he’s behind you”, and more “he’s running away from you, screaming like a banshee, running down the aisles, scrambling up the steps, knocking over that old lady’s walking stick, throwing his jumper out of the emergency exit and hiding under the stage”. 

The Fairy Godmother

So, how did she persuade me to enter my three-digit security code and purchase the tickets? Honestly? She stole my wallet and did it without telling me. Only joking. She told me that Rachel Stevens from my favourite band in the whole world ever (ahem, S Club 7) was playing the Fairy Godmother. 

Evening or matinee?

Now that we’d got that sorted, we had a decision to make. Would I write “I love you, Rachel” in green or blue pen? Again, only joking. The actual query regarded whether we should take our toddler to the panto’s morning, lunchtime, afternoon, tea time or evening performances (show times varied from 10.30am to 7pm over the course of the run).

We ummed. We aahed. I looked at the calendar and my wife checked her diary. And then we realised that a mixture of pre-planned playdates, nights out and ticket availability, meant that the only time we could do was the 5pm performance on December 12. 

Waiting for Cinderella at the Alban Arena in St Albans

Still, the show was bound to be finished by 6.30pm, right? Wrong. As we discovered on the night, the first act lasted 70 minutes, the interval was 20 minutes and then the second act was 45 minutes. Add that together and what do you get? Too slow, the answer is a parent-petrifying 135 minutes. 

Two hours and 15 minutes…

Blimey. So, I guess this is the bit when I reveal all about the two hours and 15 minutes of hell my wife and I endured when we took our toddler to the panto. Good guess. But here’s the thing. Yes, he was a bit of a nightmare to control during the interval. And yes, he got extremely tired towards the end (I’m talking popcorn falling out of his mouth because he didn’t have the energy to chew, tired). But aside from this, it wasn’t actually that bad. 

Which means? He waved his flag, focused on the show for long periods, shouted “Buttons” when everyone else did and got really, really, really, really excited during the bit where I threw my boxer shorts at Rachel Stevens. Sorry, I meant (spoiler alert) the bit where audience had to shout when they saw a ghost on the stage.

The final act

So, is taking a toddler to the panto a good idea? Well, after combining the above evidence with the way my son vividly described the on-stage action during the following morning’s breakfast, I’m going to say: it could be, but it really depends on your toddler.

Booooooo. Take a stand instead of sitting on the fence, you big ugly sister-loving, answer-tease. Yeesh, tough crowd. If you’d let me finish, you would have realised that I was about to say:

My son, who is 2 years and 10 months old, proved that it is possible for a toddler to enjoy a trip to the pantomime, but he is a) open to new experiences, b) capable of concentrating for long periods and c) absolutely A-okay with the type of noise, chaos and audience interaction you get at a pantomime. 

Got a toddler who sounds similar? If the answer is yes, then, oh yes, taking him or her to the panto is a good idea. And if it’s no, he or she is a little less predictable, then, oh no, it probably isn’t. I say this, not because the rest of the audience would care (given all the shouting and screaming I’m pretty sure that my toddler could have thrown the tantrum to end all tantrums and none of the other audience members would have noticed), but because it would almost definitely be a waste of your money. 

Until next time…

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