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Pantomime (informally panto), originated in England around the 16th Century, heavily influenced by Italian theatre, and has become a Christmas time tradition. Find out more below...

Traditional Stories 

Traditionally performed at Christmas, with family audiences, pantomimes incorporate; song, dance, slapstick comedy, cross dressing, sexual innuendos, topical references, audience interaction, and company in - jokes. 

Pantomime stories and scripts usually have no direct relation to Christmas, they are almost always based on traditional children's stories. Classic pantomime stories include; Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Aladdin, Robin Hood - Babes In The Wood, Dick Whittington, Mother Goose, Snow White, and Jack and The Beanstalk. 

Cinderella, Dick Whittington, Aladdin and Sleeping Beauty tend to constitute the majority of "big" productions staged by most companies (by popularity and box office takings). 

While the familiarity of the audience with the original story is generally assumed, plot lines are almost always 'adapted' for comic or satirical effect, characters from other popluar stories may also make an apperance into the plot. Certain familiar scenes tend to recur, regardless of plot relevance and a highly unlikely resolution of the story is common. Straight retelings of the original stories are rare.  


Performance Conventions 

Pantomime has a number of conventions or traditons that are reconisable. Some have weakened or changed over the years to adapt to social states. By no means are any of the following obligatory. 

  • The Principal Boy - in history has often been played by a young woman in tight fitting costumes. 

  • The Dame - always played by a man in drag. 

  • Risque Double Entendre - wrining innuendo out of perfectly innocent phrases. This surpasses the understanding of children and is the entertainment for adult audience members. 

  • Audience Intereaction - this includes such phrases as "It's behind you!", "Oh yes it is!" and "Oh no it is'nt". The audience is always encouraged to hiss and boo the villian and show audible sympathy for the comic idiot. 

  • Audience Participation - shows commonly contain community songs that the audience can join in with, 

  • Good vs Evil - the good fairy enters from stage right (from the audience view stage left) and the baddies enters from stage left (from the audience view stage right). This convention goes back to the medieval mystery plays, where the right side of the stage symbolised Heaven and the left side symbolised Hell. 

  • Music - music is often well known tunes or hits of the current time, often with some lyrics being changed. 

  • Dancers - a dance troupe is often involved to aid the plot. 

  • Babes & Chorus - young members who often appear in mulitple scenes, a massive aid to the plot. The chorus often have more stage time than main cast by providing background characterisation. 

  • Slapstick Mess - all pantomimes include a stand alone slaptick messy scene. This often revolves around a cooking, decorating, getting ready styled theme.  

The Word Pantomime comes from the Greek words Pan, which means all and Mimos, which translates as imitator. 

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