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Sinbad the Sailor pantomime to entertain audiences in Brussels from 20 to 22 January
Pantomime has long been a great British tradition and it’s now also firmly established on Brussels’ amateur dramatic scene.
After entertaining more than one generation of local audiences, the ECC theatre group is getting ready to stage Sinbad the Sailor at Auderghem Cultural Centre from 20 to 22 January.
As one of the tales told by Scheherazade in the 1001 Nights, director Hannah Riley welcomes the opportunity to give the pantomime version the audience it deserves. Sinbad is the first panto performing to full-capacity audiences since the lifting of pandemic-related restrictions. "I've been lucky enough to be involved with every panto since its revival by ECC in 2014, on stage and off, and each show has become more ambitious than the one before.”
She’s quick to point out that the show appeals to a wide audience: “Because it’s a panto, full of silly jokes, songs and dancing, lots of colours and fun, there's growing interest from local and other European audiences."
A team of writers has created a tailor-made script for the local audience. In addition to stock panto characters – the principal boy (played by a woman), the dame (played by a man), the outrageous baddie, the hilarious comic – it features a pair Belgian sidekicks, one Flemish, one Walloon.
“Our two Belgian characters, the inept sidekicks of our evil baddy, are played by non-native English speakers from France and Flanders,” explains Riley, who’s been impressed by “how brilliantly they have picked up the panto vibe”. While written to be as funny as possible, they deliberately avoid being rude about their host country.
But Belgium is not the only target for the humour. "Of course, there are all the usual jokes about the state of British politics – that's been a very fertile ground in recent years – but we also have a fair number of gags poking fun at EU as well as Belgian life."
Fundraising for the Warehouse theatre
This year's show will also be an opportunity for the ECC to promote the Play Your Part fundraising campaign and support the future of amateur theatre in Brussels. Thirty years ago, the club joined forces with two other amateur groups, the American Theater Company and the Irish Theatre Group, to form CAST, the Cooperative Association to Support Theatre, which owns and runs the Warehouse, a small theatre in Schaerbeek.
Now CAST is raising money to fund much needed repairs to the Warehouse. The campaign has been supported from the outset by the British and Irish Ambassadors in Brussels.
"Without the Warehouse, we wouldn’t be able to put on our panto every year – such a big show, with a large cast, lots of props and lavish costumes, needs a permanent place to rehearse, build and store it all,” points out Riley.
Each performance of Sinbad will be accompanied by a raffle in support of Play Your Part. “There are some great prizes, including a once in a lifetime opportunity for a kiss from a pantomime dame," she says.
“We know our audiences will want to help guarantee the future of the panto and all the other shows from the wider international theatre community that benefit from the Warehouse.”
Sinbad the Sailor
Auderghem Cultural Centre
Boulevard du Souverain 183
Tickets: €18 adults; €14 children