Heartwarming humour at VDP’s “Harry Potter and the Book of Spells”

This year’s pantomime played to the wide variety of audience members; slapstick humour, political commentary and pop-culture references were all on display at the highly entertaining and heartwarming spectacle

The St Vincent De Paul (VDP) society’s annual pantomime ended its run last night in what was a terrifically enjoyable performance for both the audience and the participants. The spectacle contained 18 adults with intellectual disabilities alongside over 70 children in what was the feel-good event of the year so far.

The plot of “Harry Potter and the Book of Spells” was essentially key scenes taken from the first Harry Potter book that were translated into a pantomime experience. Humour became the key focus of the dialogue. It was notable that the script usually had the kids themselves telling the jokes. Even when a line was forgotten or stage-fright took over, it was endearing to hear the children tell many, often hilarious jokes and their efforts were always loudly appreciated by the audience.

One of the main charms of the pantomime was the variety of levels of humour available – from slapstick for the young audience members to gentle political commentary for the grown-ups. The reworking of “Harry Potter” scenes can be seen to great effect in examples such as when an apparently bloodthirsty troll breaks into Hogwarts. It transpires that the troll is actually a vegan and ,instead of trying to eat the students, tries to convert them to veganism.

The musical aspect of the pantomime also contained a huge amount of comedy. We were treated to a mix of contemporary and classical pop, which often the lyrics reworked to suit the situation. For example, when Voldemort (played brilliantly by Peter McCormick) celebrated his resurrection by singing “Voldemort’s Back Alright” to the tune of the Backstreet Boys song “Backstreet’s Back”. In the dance scenes, it was lovely to watch the adult actor’s choreographed moves alongside the kids jamming out to whatever rhythm they were feeling.

It was evident from both the the kids antics on stage and interviews with the cast later on that the child actors happiness was of utmost importance. Clare McCarthy, one of the child liaison officers, described the whole point of the pantomime as being “organised chaos and invaluable experience for the kids”. The other child liaison officer, Paul Nolan, gave an example of a girl on the first night who was too scared to go on stage. After seeing her aunt and uncle in the audience she went on stage and delivered her lines. She afterwards described her stage-fright as being cured and asked Nolan as they walked off the stage: “Are we famous now?”

The children’s and the adults with intellectual disabilities enjoyment of their roles was clearly evident from their performances and was capped at the end of the show as they freestyled danced till the curtain came down. This was supported by a 5-minute standing ovation from the crowd. While the audience had a brilliant time ultimately it was the kids happiness that was emphasised by the performers. Andrew Tyrell, who played the titular role as Harry Potter, summed up the feeling after the event: “Obviously we had a great time on stage but it’s really all about the kids and trinity club and making sure that they all had as much fun as possible.” I feel I can say confidently, that this goal was achieved.