Panto: Where Tradition And Tomfoolery

Take Centre Stage… Oh Yes It Does!

In the enchanting world of British theatre, there’s a genre that has transcended generations, tickled our funny bones, and become a cherished holiday tradition

The history of pantomime in the United Kingdom is as rich and varied as the flavours in a Christmas pudding.

The roots of pantomime can be traced back to the Italian ‘commedia dell’arte’ but it truly blossomed on British shores in the 18th century. The word ‘pantomime’ itself derives from the Greek words panto (meaning all) and mimo (meaning imitator). It’s a name that perfectly encapsulates the genre’s flair for all things theatrical.

Pantomime has evolved into a whimsical spectacle filled with slapstick humour, cross-dressing actors and interactive audience participation. The phrase, ’Oh yes it does!’ followed by ‘Oh no it doesn’t!’ echoes through the aisles, as the audience gleefully engages with the actors.

Pantomime is synonymous with the festive season in the UK. Families across the nation flock to their local theatres to witness the enchanting tales of Cinderella, Aladdin or Dick Whittington unfold in a riot of colourful sets and extravagant costumes. It’s a bonding experience where generations come together to share a collective laugh.

Pantomime isn’t just about the storyline, it’s about the elements that make it quintessentially British. The bumbling yet lovable comic character, known as the ‘pantomime dame’ is often played by a male actor dressed in flamboyant, over-the-top outfits. These larger-than-life characters are a riot to watch, often breaking the fourth wall and making cheeky comments that leave the audience in stitches.

And who can forget the evergreen tradition of the trusty principal boy, a dashing young man played by a female actor – a concept that has been a staple of pantomime since its inception.

And then there’s the villain, the embodiment of all things wicked. Whether it’s the wicked stepmother in Cinderella or the evil sorcerer in Aladdin, the pantomime villain revels in their deviousness, drawing jeers and boos from the crowd.

Pantomime has also been a pioneer of inclusivity and diversity in the theatre. It has welcomed actors of all backgrounds and it often features actors with disabilities, ensuring that the magic of the pantomime is accessible to everyone.

While pantomime remains steeped in tradition, it has also evolved with the times. Modern productions often incorporate pop culture references, contemporary humour and dazzling special effects. However, the essence of pantomime, that unique blend of laughter and heart, remains at its core.

Pantomime isn’t just a theatre performance it’s a festive tradition that binds families and friends together. The joy of seeing a giant beanstalk grow or Cinderella’s magical transformation never gets old. It’s a delightful mix of tradition and tomfoolery, where generations gather to revel in the enchanting world of pantomime.

So, this holiday season, when someone asks you if you’d like to go to the pantomime, remember to shout, ‘Oh yes, I do!’

After all, what better way to celebrate the season than with a hearty dose of laughter and a touch of theatrical magic?



Tedd Walmsley

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Tedd Walmsley managing director of Live Magazines shares his views on the latest topics in media.

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