Advent 8: Pantomime

A traditional panto in a British town hall will have jokes about the Mayor and local issues.
Pub pantos are for adults and tend to be more political

Everyone should see a pantomime at least once. The traditional British festive plays are full of audience-participation with calls of “It’s behind you” and “Oh! Yes it is – No it isn’t” – The audience have to sing and they get sweets thrown at them. These are popular fairy tales rewritten, from Aladdin to Jack & The Beanstalk, full of adult innuendos that go right over kids heads. There is a fair bit of cross-dressing – The Dame, who is usually the mother of the hero, is played by an older male and the Principal Boy is always played by a younger leggy woman in tights.

School productions invite the parents. They have jokes about teachers and it is a teacher usually plays the Dame, such as Widow Twanky who squirts water over everyone in a washing scene. It will also show off talented pupils dancing, singing or playing an instrument.

The ones in pubs are usually political and raucous – usually a charity fund-raiser. Village hall ‘pantos’ deal with local issues and are usually the funniest.

In cities it is harder to create humour that everyone gets, so they tend to be more like musicals which feature celebrities and have bigger budgets for the sets.

Mary Poppins at The Mayflower Theatre Southampton 2015

11 thoughts on “Advent 8: Pantomime

  1. As a child, I lived in dread of being taken to a panto. I was terrified I’d be singled out to do something. I’ve noticed my own children, who weren’t scaredy-cats like me, only really went along to humour the grown-up who’d invited them. It’s a shame that my family, normally such lovers of tradition, don’t really get behind this one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • No it’s not everyone’s cup of tea – a lot depends on the atmosphere. I remember one cute boy at a production of Aladdin who got so engrossed he went marching down to the stage and shouted out: “You rub that lamp this minute!” Of course it was used as an ad-lib a few times later on and I couldn’t stop laughing.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. At least this American not only doesn’t understand the concept, I’ve never heard of these pantomimes. How could I have lived for 70 years, and how could I have had many English friends, without hearing of them? Well, I don’t know, but now I’m educated. What a fun evening this would be!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I haven’t been since I was a teenager. The very first one I saw had Mr Pastry in it and was at the Gaumont (as it was then) in 1964 or 1965 (probably). Even at that young age (I was but a child), I thought he made a lot of uncesseary mess. Goodness knows which panto it was.

    Liked by 1 person

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