Saturday, December 02, 2006

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the pantomime

an annual christmas tradition in kampala is the pantomime (the "panto"). it's a play, musical, theatrical experience staged 6 times over 5 days in early december. as the stagebill for this year's pantomime says: "for those of you new to panto, it represents an integral part of british culture, requiring certain very specific elements. the hero (the principal boy) must be played by a woman; the leading older woman's part must be played by a husky man (the dame); there must be at least one animal (in this production we have two - a dog and a gorilla); and the audience must participate at every opportunity. yes, this chaos has been carefully designed. it is also traditional for pantomimes to be based on well-known children's stories."

we went with open minds and a sense of humor, as recommeneded, to this year's panto, "tintin goes bananas - what's happened to all the matooke?" the panto is traditionally directed toward the kids both in the cast and in the audience, but no matter. we were sucked into the atmosphere like everyone else; booing and hissing when provoked, cheering when urged. imo snowy stole the show, and big hits of the production were cleverly rewritten lyrics to popularly recognized disney/broadway songs. my favorite was a kampala-centric version of "part of your world" from the little mermaid. no chance that i'll remember any of the lyrics except the one that replaced "what would i give if i could live out of these waters" with "what would i give if i could live in bugolobi." bugolobi's got it going on and the rest of kampala knows it. the 24/7 electricity doesn't hurt our public image, of course.
101paige 101africa
the panto was staged at the national theater, which supports a good theatrical scene in kampala. the kampala amateur dramatics society produces most of the shows (most recently fiddler on the roof) and attracts quality talent. for example, the musical director orchestrated a tony award-winning broadway musical before coming to kampala and being the one responsible for the good music and clever lyrics in the panto. kampala's like that. the year-round predictibly good weather, high quality of life, and active social/cultural scene attract good people.

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