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Coquitlam actors get panto'd

Most people know pantomime as wordless acting. Ellie King knows it as something quite different -- and timeless.

Most people know pantomime as wordless acting. Ellie King knows it as something quite different -- and timeless.

"The real British pantomime is actually a big piece of theatre history, if done properly," said King, who is the artistic director of the Evergreen Cultural Centre-spiced Sword and the Stone, a Royal Canadian Theatre Company production running Dec. 15 to 31 at the Surrey Arts Centre.

"It's been around for 400 years and is very loud... [with] voices, music, song and dance and audience participation. It's really a family event. It's a large amount of fun."

Two of the Sword's main characters -- G'Norman the Gnome and Arthur -- are played by Evergreen's own Christopher Lewis MacLeod and Mandy Tulloch, an ECC instructor. The show's musical director (and King's husband) Geoff King is another transplant; his full-time gig is technical operations manager at ECC.

The British-born King is most familiar herself with Evergreen, having played the lead role in Shirley Valentine there in two separate productions, among roles in various other plays.

King was introduced to the panto at just three years old, and brought her vast experience in the beloved Brit tradition as a writer, director and producer when she moved to Canada in 1982. She stays true to panto's traditions with everyday topics like government and politics while modernizing it with current Canadian hot-button issues like the HST -- all in the name of good, clean humour.

Janice Cotter, another Evergreen notable who's volunteering for the hilarious King Arthur-makeover of Sword, said King's passion for British pantomime is something of which everybody should get at least a taste, if not a heaping dose.

"It's a celebration of our favourite childhood fairytales and legends, reworked and turned on their ear by uproarious characters, zany original and adapted songs, mixed in with generous amounts of innuendo and high-spirited audience interaction," Cotter said. "Pantomimes are suitable for all age groups and are a delightful way to introduce little ones to the theatre experience."

Sword and the Stone runs Dec. 15 to 31. Get tickets and info at or call Surrey Arts Centre at 604-501-5566.

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