Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Christmas Countdown - Oh Yes it is!

Bonfire Night has whizzed away but there’s no time to mourn the smouldering village bonfires or rocket wrappers on the ground; Christmas is less than 50 days away!

Supermarkets and catalogues have been chucking festive food in our faces since August bank holiday but we’re just catching tentatively booking turkeys and choosing which 2013 calendar to buy, (Cliff Richard for me every time!) I love Christmas and I got my first anticipatory tinsel shivers when the Christmas edition of Red Magazine arrived in the post.  Every magazine is packed with festive outfits, recipes and stocking fillers in their November edition which although seems premature can actually fuel our yuletide anticipation.

Yes I'd look daft in any of these
but they're still Xmas "must haves!"
But as I read each page I felt slightly despondent; does everyone really have so many parties to go to that we must buy 3 sequined tops?  Who are the people with these busy social seasons and time to make canapés and drink champagne? Do we all have a lazy two weeks free to fill with family walks and tins of Quality Street?  I dream of having that fantasy Christmas seen in magazines, not the one you see depicted annually in Albert Square, but sadly, my inner 5 year old rattling presents on Christmas Eve is quashed by the working adult.

You see, I can only aspire to mince pie and port parties in a sparkly outfit because I am an actress and I haven’t had a proper Christmas since 2002.  Christmas is the one time of the year that actors are mostly in work; our agents’ bank accounts soar as we don thigh-high boots, jerkins and villagers outfits across the country in pantomime.

You can’t get more Christmassy than yelling “It’s behind you,” I hear you cry so, yes, we do indulge in the Christmas spirit but in a very different way to the Christmas in magazines.  Actors are the only humans not to gain weight during Christmas; the twice sometimes thrice daily performances guarantee that mince pies will not cling to your hips but the downside is the bags under your eyes get bigger and darker with each passing finale.

Our festive families become the 14 new faces at the first day of rehearsals and the 3 groups of local dance school children who supply the cards, homemade treats and cuddles in case we get homesick.  Christmas drinking partners can’t be your old chums in the local so instead it’s eggnog with Buttons, Abanazar and a celebrity or two to sign your autograph book. 

Replace this image with character shoes, berocca and 2litre Evian - that's more like it!
We may have the nightly festive night cap or company meal but most of the season is spent planning the drive home on Christmas Eve so that we can spend 24 hours under our family’s Christmas tree before heading back up the M1 at 6am on Boxing Day for the matinee.  Note to all patrons; it may be an English tradition to visit the pantomime on Boxing Day but more fool you.  Snow White and her seven dwarfs will either be shattered from an 8 hour round trip in the car, hungover, still drunk or just plain miffed that their families are enjoying a Boxing Day buffet whilst we are re-heating turkey in the green room microwave in-between shows.  A merry matinee it isn’t; the best time to see pantomime is Christmas Eve when we’re all full of Cadbury’s Yule Logs and anticipation to jump into our cars parked opposite stage door!

Even if an actor is in a West End job there still isn’t the chance of living up to the magazine Christmas; evenings are spent onstage instead of at parties and the “Company Christmas Do” is usually in January when the show schedule quietens down and room rental is cheaper.  The only people you see in sequins post New Year’s Eve are drag queens so you usually end up in an old frock like any other old night out to save face.

Everyone loves a fairytale wedding!
Despite all this I have always loved working over Christmas and have many happy festive memories of children’s faces lit up by over-priced colourful wands as they shout and scream at the stage.  But I have opted to have a “normal person” Christmas this year; I am determined to attend a Christmas ‘do’, see friends and spend quality (street) time with precious family.  But like all plans well made.....my other half is still doing panto in Torquay, so I’ll still be spending much of the holiday season driving up and down the M5 to see him. “You can take the actress out of the pantomime.....”

But maybe I’ll do it wearing a sparkly outfit and munching Waitrose canapés!

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