To panto or not to panto: pantomime with a baby

I love a good panto! I’m lucky enough to live near Theatre Royal Windsor. Their panto is always mean and the cast is excellent. Back in August when it was time to book my ticket, I was slightly hesitant. By Christmas, my little one is going to be only 8 months old so I was unsure whether he would enjoy the performance or whether it’d be too much for him.

I took a risk and last week we attended his first ever panto – Dick Whittington. I was little nervous but it turned out to be a great experience. Not sure who had more fun – me or him. He was totally fascinated by the sounds and lights and costumes and crazy people prancing around on the stage and more crazy people cheering. Screw sensory classes – panto is the way forward!

If like me you are not sure about whether it’s a wise idea to go to a theatre with a baby, here are some tips that will hopefully help you enjoy it more and stress less:

  • Research

Don’t just buy a random ticket, turn up and see what happens. Now that you are a parent that kind of life is in your past. Check your theatre website for their policy and suggestions and/or call them to find out whether there is some place to leave your buggy etc.

  • Time of the performance

I attended a morning show which was meant primarily for school kids. That was great because baby noises (and possible screams) wouldn’t bother anyone. At the same time, I didn’t take into account how loud kids are. And I mean LOUD. Their little high-pitched voices when multiplied by a few hundred are deafening, if not dangerous. Initially their shouting freaked my little one out (even though I was trying to cover his ears) but eventually he got used to it (or deaf). Evening shows are likely to have a higher adult to child ratio than matinée shows and adults usually don’t make so much noise. On the other hand, in the evening babies tend to be grumpy if their bedtime routine is not followed.

  • Seat

I’m not sure about the exact age limit but my little one didn’t need his own seat and sat on my lap – so I ended up paying for one ticket only. Despite the seat next to us being empty, he still preferred sitting on my lap and having cuddles.

Choose your seat carefully. You want to offer your child a reasonably good view, while you probably don’t want to sit right in front of a speaker. I went for the best (and most expensive row) in the house with an excellent view. It turned out that the seats were also bigger and it was the only row that was nearly empty despite the theatre being packed with school kids. I strategically chose an aisle seat to enable me a quick exit if necessary.

  • Nap

I don’t know about your baby but mine is in a good mood for about two hours after waking up. Then he gets gradually more tired and grumpy and wouldn’t care even if ABBA came to perform Dancing Queen in front of his face. So plan their nap strategically and make sure your little one is fresh and ready to enjoy this delightful experience.

  • Equipment

Have baby “equipment” ready – a bottle and a comforter or a dummy to calm him down if it all gets too much.

  • Be prepared to leave

There is a chance your baby won’t like it, will find it overwhelming or will get fed up half way through, so sadly you have to be prepared to leave and miss the end.

 

Finally, I’d like to encourage all of you to take your kids to panto. It is a great way to introduce them to theatre and get them used to entertainment considerable more sophisticated than Grand Theft Auto or takeaway in front of TV.

Also, a massive thanks to all Windsor theatre staff who were always extremely helpful and super friendly! We will be back 🙂

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