There are three things one learns with a backstage pass to the Royal Canadian Theatre Company's pantomime production of Sword in the Stone. First, high-heels are indeed an integral part of a warrior's outfit. Also, being evil means you get pyrotechnics with every on-stage appearance, and by no means should children ever be part of the act - especially the cute ones.
Just beyond the curtains at Surrey Arts Centre lies a magical world of costumes, giant dragon puppets and bits of castle on wheels that will crush you if not careful.
Sword in the Stone has been on stage since Dec. 16 at the Bear Creek Park theatre, closing Dec. 31 with a 3 p.m. matinee.
It takes the classic tale of swordsmanship, honour and courage, and adds blue-bearded "guh-nomes," adorable child actors at every turn and several dance numbers.
While the magic the show brings to the stage is out there for all to see, the Now wanted to witness the inner workings of the theatrical beast.
Last Sunday afternoon (Dec. 18), Ellie King, the "Queen of Panto" herself, invited us back stage, for better or worse.
Actors begin trickling in about two hours before the curtain rises, entering the labyrinthine halls that are the "backstage."
Bits of scenery on little rollers are moved into place, and pyrotechnic charges are set (by a professional, of course) in preparation for when the Demon King enters during the show.
Behind and below the stage itself, the actors (of all shape and size) gather in dressing rooms and the common area.
Those with more elaborate makeup, like Morgana and the Demon King, begin applying greens and purples more than an hour before the show.
Actors under four feet tall are subject to a less rigorous pre-show regimen.
Remnants of yesterday's potluck remain on the table in the common room, or stuffed in the fridge. Those with time avail themselves freely. The show has 41 players in all, with three costume changes per performer, says King.
This includes the pantomime dame, a man dressed as a woman who can make jokes at the expense of both sexes, and interact with the audience. That is one of the things that makes panto so engaging, says King.
"For us particularly, we drop the fourth wall so many times, and our actors directly interact with the audience, and vice versa. You'll have them speaking and answering each other. You never know where it's going to come."
But for King, the greatest magic is theatre's ability to bring people together as an audience.
"They all become one organism that speaks and breaths together, and they speak with one voice, and they laugh with one voice, and they cry with one set of eyes. It's kind of like slime mould!"
For tickets and info about Sword in the Stone, call 604-501-5566 or visit www. rctheatreco.com.