There’s something very special about the unerring nostalgia that runs within us. With a little bit of luck, our obliging brains can be very selective with their memories - serving up images of past experiences of unadulterated joy, blissful ignorance and enthusiasm unbounded. With some imagination, it’s almost as if we can see the vintage Instagram filter overlaid on those moving images - casting it as if a dream. A piece of time gone by.
This nostalgia is triggered most often by witnessing these moments in real time but happening for someone else. We’ve all had that moment when we gaze in wonder at the delight a child can derive from merely playing with a balloon. In those moments we can’t help but project our own childhood onto theirs. We cast aside the drudgery of our complicated adult lives and, for a moment, inhabit the mind of that child. We step behind their eyes for a second.
As we do so our face tends to light up without us even knowing it. For a brief sliver of time, we are young once again. We are innocent once again. We can revel in the real awe-struck joy that a balloon brings. It reminds us that we really shouldn’t be taking ourselves so seriously.
It might sound high-minded to you, but I believe it to be true. That sense of wonder that a child finds in seemingly innocuous objects is exactly the energy that we should be drawing on when looking around at our world. Our world is magical if we choose to see it that way. Instead, we get caught up in the trappings of the adult world where it’s not cool to express wonder and awe at something so simple. With a couple decades behind us, the colours of the world don’t seem as bright anymore. The sights and sounds in our vicinity become obstacles or distractions. We don’t get surprised by things. We don’t get astonished by things.
And what a shame that is.
We could use a little more awe in our world. We could use some more wonder. We could certainly use some more appreciation of the humanity that shares our planet. And one way we get there is by stepping into the mind of a child.
This is what I felt most strongly when I attended the opening night of the 2018 version of the Pantomime currently on here in Johannesburg. It’s a show that revisits the endearing story of Snow White in all it’s splendour. Under the fantastic leadership of Janice Honeyman (this her 31st pantomime production) the dazzling costumes, inspired choreography, pitch-perfect singing and timely South African humour presents a microcosm of what it must feel like to be inside a child’s mind for a little bit.
The twinge of nostalgic bliss is not merely delivered through the content of the show (which is excellent) but rather through the experience of enjoying the show surrounded by children in the audience. It’s an atmosphere that cannot be explained, but needs to be experienced. The outbursts of laughter at objectively unfunny jokes, the shrieks of terror at Snow White’s impending bite of the poison apple, the tears of joy at a story that ends with happily ever after. Sitting in that audience gives every one of us the permission to be a child again. And that feeling is liberating. It’s refreshing.
In 2018 the world has felt exceptionally cynical. Following the news has been heart wrenching and apathy-inducing in equal measure. As the year draws to a close, the adults are tired. The world has taken and taken from you. But when you experience a show like this - it can burgle a small piece of hope into your heart.
That’s all I can promise - a tiny peek into the pure joy of a child’s mind.
And who knows what that could do?
You can buy tickets for this year’s pantomime at www.joburgtheatre.com.
The show runs until 23 December 2018. Don’t miss out!