Creativity Magazine

The Pantaloons: History of Britain

Posted on the 10 September 2014 by Miscriant @miscriant
The Pantaloons stole my banana.
The Pantaloons: History of Britain Not only that.  They stole it, peeled it, ate it and then taunted me.  "Go write about that on your blog" was the phrase he uttered as he strutted off, leaving me banana-less.
I think I got reverse heckled.  If there even is such a thing (mental note to check with my stand up comedy friends if reverse heckling actually exists).
As I write this, I am savaging a new, fresh, delicious banana in memory of the one I lost that fateful Sunday afternoon sat on the grassy slopes near the lake at Mt Ephraim, watching a performance of The History Of Britain (in 90 minutes), that, until that point I had been giggling like a school girl at.
The Pantaloons: History of BritainSo, Pantaloons, you challenged me to write about your theft on my blog, to show the whole world your food stealing ways?  Challenge accepted.
To be perfectly honest, it's not really that much of a challenge.  I have written about this little touring theater company twice before The problem is, they are always fresh, always energetic, always vibrant, and always just so damn funny.
It's infuriating really; you just can't stay angry at them.  It's like trying to stay angry at a puppy that's pooped in your slipper and then gazes at you imploring (and disingenuously) with limpid eyes- it's not possible.  Especially when they offer the chance for a pre-show selfie.
The Pantaloons: History of BritainI dragged Steve along to see them for the first time, and along with RV and Claire, Ellie and John, we set up an impromptu picnic on the field.
The Pantaloons: History of BritainThe Pantaloons: History of Britain
We managed picnic blankets and one chair that the boys fought over (Steve won - to be fair, it was his chair).   Other groups managed to appear far more stylish with mutliple chairs, tables (and a tablecloth - check out the far left group below) and even glasswear for champagne.  Show-off's.
The Pantaloons: History of BritainOnce settled, we prepared ourselves for a whistlestop tour through the entire History of Britain.  The Pantaloons launched a survey back in 2013 to see what type of shows their loyal band of followers would like to see performed, and this was the title that was voted most popular by a country mile (sidetracked thought, are country miles longer than city miles?  Is it just that the tractor in front of you the entire way and the smell of chicken manure makes it feel longer?)
Back on track.  This then presented The Pantaloons with a bit of a dilemma, well, more of a challenge really.  It's all well and good having a title that appeals to the masses, but you can't run for 90 minutes on just a title - people are liable to get bored.  You need a show there as well.  Trouble is, unlike their previous works which have all been adapted from pre-existing bodies of works (literary classics like Sherlock and Grimm, well known plays like Dream) this didn't really have a text already handily lying there screaming for use.  Unless you count people's A-Level History books.
The Pantaloons: History of BritainThere's another dilemma as well.   History is all a bit dry really - a series of dates and battles and kings and queens in slow succession.  The Pantaloons needed to get to the humanity behind the history, the stories and tales that have since become folklore and legend, nursery rhymes and parables.
Well, they succeeded, and we were treated to A History of Britain that told the stories behind the facts, that paid respect to the tragedy that plagued our emerald isle and mocked the stupidity in peoples actions (a crown does not equate to intelligence.  I think it's the weight - it makes the brains dribble out of the ears).
As with all Pantaloons material, we were also treated to a huge variety of different styles and performance techniques, with a fair bit of ad-libbing thrown in for good measure!  This was the History of Britain like it had never been seen before - it was a bit like a cross between Blackadder and Horrible Histories meets a pantomime cabaret.
The Pantaloons: History of BritainSo, we started in pre-historic times, and in the space of 3 minutes had seen the discovery of fire, invasion of the Romans, invasion of the Vikings, invasion of the Normans and the fall of Henry at the Battle of Hastings.  3 minutes in and we were already at 1066.  Impressive.
We then slowed down(!) a little with a re-telling of Shakespeare's Richard III in 15 minutes, complete with a non-sword battle as Kelly (The Red Loon) had hurt her hand a couple of days previously.   I mention this as it gives you an idea of the style of The Pantaloons, when, mid yell, they both turn to the audience and explain that no actual fighting would be happening that day before launching straight back into character.
The Pantaloons: History of BritainThe Pantaloons: History of BritainThe Pantaloons: History of BritainFollowing on from the Richard III in 15 minutes sketch, we then launched into a romantic comedy version of Henry VIII as he recounts his various marital wows to his best friend (whom he only sees to moan about the latest wife) and the revolving door of his wives as Kelly and Alex jumped nimbly through each of the various women's characters.
The Pantaloons: History of BritainThe Pantaloons: History of BritainThe Pantaloons: History of BritainFrom the comedy of Henry VIII (it's not often you get to describe him as a comedy), we tackled the dissolution of the monastries, complete with aged, half deaf nuns before moving into a sombre puppetry show about the tragedy of Lady Jane Grey, the 9 Day Queen who had been manipulated by everyone around her, paying the price for their greed with her life at just 17 years of age.  This moving material just proved how capable this troop are as virtuoso performers and the change of pace was welcome.
The Pantaloons: History of BritainThe Pantaloons: History of BritainFrom Lady Jane Grey we catapaulted into The Virgin Queen and the Spanish Armada, handled, (obviously!) as a Gilbert and Sullivan pastiche.
The Pantaloons: History of BritainThe Pantaloons: History of BritainThis whole section can only be described as right, rollocking fun, complete with songs, dance and some truly awful accents!
The Pantaloons: History of BritainThe Pantaloons: History of BritainThe Pantaloons: History of BritainWith the successful defeat of the Armada (woo-hoo!) it was time for a break to let The Pantaloons refuel, and the audience debate the long climb up the hill to the toilets.
The Pantaloons: History of BritainWhen we came back, we were flung straight into Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder plot, with the old nursery rhyme being chanted softly and eerily in the background.
Remember, remember the 5th of NovemeberGunpowder, treason and plotI see no reason why gunpowder treasonShould ever be forgot
Guy Fawkes is a strange character in British history.  Utterly villified for attempting to blow up the Houses of Parliament and King James I in 1605 to replace him with a Catholic king, his actions soon became an excuse for anti-Catholic activities and soon the figures that were burnt on the bonfires were no longer just effegies of Guy Fawkes, but also of other popular hate figures, such as the Pope.  Guy Fawkes is likely to be the only name that people remember of the 12 men involved in the plot, despite the fact that he wasn't their leader.  Nowadays, Bonfire Night is just an excuse for a big celebration and party - any real religious or political overtones have long since faded into history.  The Pantaloons handled this popular story from our past in an incredibly creepy way, masking Guy Fawkes into an anonymous, emotionless figure.
The Pantaloons: History of BritainMoving on, we got into the English Civil War, which was re-enacted by an insult hurling match between the Roundheads and the Cavaliers (i.e.the two halves of the audience), led by audience members dragged up by The Pantaloons to represent Oliver Cromwell and King Charles I.  These audience members were put on the spot to come up with the worst possible insults they could think of, which the audience then yelled on their behalf. 
The Pantaloons: History of BritainThe Pantaloons: History of BritainAfter a brief spate of more food stealing by The Pantaloons (they are terrible for it) whilst covering something to do with the wool industry (I'll be honest - I can't remember what they were talking about, I was too tranfixed on the fact that more food was being pinched, and licked by Alex!)
The Pantaloons: History of BritainThe Pantaloons: History of BritainBy now we were tickling the edges of what could be called modern history (i.e the last 300 years or so).  We started to look at the creation and expansion of the British Empire (which saw a lot of sea travel - guess how that was represented!)
The Pantaloons: History of BritainThe Pantaloons: History of BritainThe Pantaloons: History of BritainFollowed by the Crimean War and Florence Nightingale, the Lady With The Lamp.
The Pantaloons: History of BritainWe were starting to get closer to a period of history that I was quite intrigued to see how they would cover, but before then we got the Victorian Era in the style of an old Music Hall show, compared by Queen Vic herself.  She was not amused.   There was also The Suffragettes and the battle for floats for swimming.  I'm sure someone, somewhere missed the memo about that particular campaign.  All the girls in the audience did get a running Hi Five from the 'Loons though during that particular sketch.  Charles Darwin even made a brief cameo appearance!
The Pantaloons: History of BritainThe Pantaloons: History of BritainThe Pantaloons: History of BritainWe neared the end of the show as the 'Loons tackled a particularly difficult and sensitive subject; that of World War I.  They really surprised me on this by reciting and contrasting poems of the era that called the men to arms and service, and also described the pure horror and tragedy of that event.  It was incredibly touching and moving, and very, very effective.
After that sobering subject, we needed a bit of lift and finished the performance in pure Pantaloons style, with a sing and a dance!
The Pantaloons: History of BritainAs always, an afternoon of pure, unadulterated pleasure courtesy of this ingenious troop.  Please, please go and check out this company and see if they are performing near you - if they are, go and see them.
Kelly, Edward, Alex and Chris, it's been a pleasure as always
I'll even forgive you for that banana.
The Pantaloons: History of BritainIf you like (or hate!) what you have read, please do let me know in the comments below or slap me with a cheeky follow, or say Hi to me on my Facebook group or Twitter or Instagram!

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