Rachel Scheibel

Rachel Scheibel

Audience playtime

NANAIMO - The Nanaimo Theatre Group presents its holiday pantomime The Emperor's New Clothes, starting Friday (Dec. 18).

Make noise.

Boo. Cheer. Jeer.

This kind of behaviour isn’t just accepted during pantomime performances, it’s encouraged.

At the Nanaimo Theatre Group’s pantomime adaptation of The Emperor’s New Clothes, actors said they expect people to shout out.

And while the audience members have fun in their seats the actors will be having fun on stage bringing their kooky characters to life.

“It think it’s just fun to play a character over the top and eccentric,” said Rachel Scheibel, who is Cinnabon, the Emperor’s fashion advisor.

Carolyn Kuhn plays Fairy Silkenlace. Her character is invisible to the actors but audience members can see her. She depends on directions from audience members given to the actors on stage to help her guide the side of good.

“This is a chance for kids to come and they don’t have to worry about being really quiet in their seats. They can call out and enjoy it,” said Kuhn. “It is such a fun, colourful show that it would be sad to miss.”

Audience members are encouraged to boo when the bad guys make an entrance and shout out clues to help the fairy. Kuhn said the fourth wall that usually separates the audience and actors during performances doesn’t exist in pantomimes.

Although the pantomime has been “jazzed up a bit” from the original, it still has the same morals and lessons about vanity and kindness for the kids to absorb, she said.

Tasha Ballantyne, who plays Peter Sew N Sew, said during the performance the actors and audience members can feed off each other’s energy, ramping up the fun.

“We are having a blast,” she said.

Her character helps battle Count Cross Stitch who fools the Emperor. With the help of his magic book and friends Peter helps good triumph.

The original play, The Emperor’s New Clothes, was written by Hans Christian Andersen. It was crafted into the pantomime tradition by Nanaimo Theatre Group members Ian Matthews, Peggy Harris and Sheila Coultish.

The writers had to tweak the story to flesh out the character of Dame Sew N Sew more and use fewer locations because of stage size constraints.

“It isn’t a panto story, so we used it as a base and built the story around it,” said Matthews.

The main theme that the writers ensured to include was good versus evil.

Kelly Kijek plays Dame Sew N Sew, the go-to fashion expert for the Emperor.

“The whole thing has been a blast to be able to camp it up and let it go to the cartoony aspect,” he said. “I think it will just be a harmless riot. I think it will be loud in a cheery sort of way.”

Although Kijek has performed in Nanaimo Theatre Group productions before, he never acted in a panto. He was inspired to perform in the pantomime after reading the memoir of Stephen Fry and his experiences with panto productions in the ’80s while attending Cambridge University.

The Emperor’s New Clothes pantomime premiers Friday (Dec. 18) at 7:30 at the Bailey Studio, located at 2373 Rosstown Road. It shows Dec. 18-20, Dec. 26-30 at 7:30 and matinees are Dec. 19, 20, 26 and 27.  A special New Year’s Eve show is 9 p.m. on Dec. 31. Tickets are $16, except the New Year’s show which is $25. Call 250-758-7224 or go to www.nanaimotheatregroup.ca.

arts@nanaimobulletin.com