'You are going to have to be deliberate,' a friend and Welsh language mentor told me before I came to Wales. 'You will meet lots of well meaning people who are happy to learn Welsh, but don't actually want to speak the language. You will also meet people who in ordinary circumstances you might want to spend time with. But if you want to improve your Welsh are going to have to prioritise friendships.'
This turned out to be sound advice. I have met both of the above types of people. But for the most part, I have made Welsh language activities my priority. Until I got an invitation to the oh-so-very-English Aberdyfi Pantomime.
You see as well as the half-Welsh-girl lurking inside me, there is another little girl who had an English daddy in addition to her Welsh mummy, who spent her whole childhood reading books set on the other side of the world, in a place her parents called home, where there were oak trees and badgers and seaside holidays and rock candy and donkey rides and piers and pebble beaches and castles and Yorkshire puddings and pork pies and New Forest ponies and Sadlers Wells and the West End and … pantomimes.
Here is what Wikipedia says about the pantomime:
performed … to a lesser extent, in other English-speaking countries.
You see, I had never seen an English a pantomime and prioritised Welsh language friendships, or not, I was not going miss the Aberdyfi Pantomime.
The idea that I had never been to a pantomime was a topic for discussion.
'Oh, yes, I've seen the film, definitely. But not as a pantomime. What about you?'
'Loads of times. It's a rite of passage for us.'
'Er… Right of passage? In what way?'
'Judy Garland.' Someone else answered. 'Gay men love Judy Garland. The question: are you a friend of Dorothy? Was like a password or secret handshake.'
'Oh, yes, of course.' I knew that (not).
The Dyfi Pantomime was everything I had imagined.
- People laughed
- Sang along
- Yelled directions
- Laughed at corny poo jokes
- Enjoyed the not so subtle innuendos
- And the fact that Elvis had somehow found his way to Oz
- Along with Prince Caspian
- I mean, this was a village pantomime
- Everyone needed a part
- From the young
- To the old
- To the talented
- And those simply having a good time
- The stage effects were amazing
- As were the scenery
- And the costumes
On the bus ride home people remarked on the finer details of Dave from Top Corris' costumes, right down to and gold eyelashes.
'He won't want to take it off.' Someone joked. 'He'll come to the cafe as Aunt Em on Saturday morning.'
'I think Corris is ready,' someone else replied.
'Yes, others agreed.'
I'm not sure whether Corris is ready for Dave in his burgundy corset and matching bloomers but it's already doing diversity. This has been one of the privileges of living in this tiny mid-Wales village. Not a particularly Welsh speaking community – but a place in which friends of Dorothy live alongside every other Tom, Dick and Mary as if that is perfectly normal (because it damn well is) and where people are kind and caring and accepting and hire a bus and go to the pantomime (even those who don't like pantomimes) because their friend is performing and who let Aussie Welsh-language-fanatics join them for the evening and make artists from all over the world feel welcome because they understand community. And they are wonderful.
Thanks Corris for an amazing seven months and for inviting me to the Dyfi Pantomime.