What is PANTO?
Is it like mime where silent clowns perform?
Actually, it’s nothing like that at all. British Pantomime, or Panto, has no resemblance to those silent comedians whatsoever. In fact, Panto is probably the noisiest, rowdiest sort of live theatre you can attend and it’s for the whole family. It’s a musical comedy traditionally done for a Christmas treat. It has nothing to do with mimes, those silent performers in white-faces.
Panto takes familiar fairy tales and children’s stories such as this year’s CINDERELLA and injects a bit of music hall, vaudeville, contemporary references and lots of audience participation to create a raucous, noisy entertainment that’s fun for everyone.
It is a traditional British Christmas play and a chance for people to go to the theatre. But it really came from very un-British traditions, nothing to do with Christmas whatever!
Often billed as children’s entertainment, pantomime really began as an entertainment for adults. It can be traced back to the ancient Roman ‘Saturnalia’ midwinter feast, at which everything was supposed to be turned upside-down like the Pantomime Dames (Men comically dressed up as women).
Pantomime first came to Britain in the 18th century from the ‘commedia dell’arte’, the Italian tradition of improvised theatre. The stories of the commedia dell’arte had many ‘stock’ characters in them such as clowns and jesters and a ‘baddie’. Traditional plots got mixed up with fairy stories, folk tales, or tales from the Arabian Nights stories, and gradually evolved into the dozen or so familiar stories of the panto repertoire that are still used today. The traditional figures from the commedia dell’arte gradually disappeared, and pantomimes became more as we know them today; they also became an expected part of our Christmas festivities.
Pantomime is now a popular family entertainment enjoyed by the adults as much as the children. The audience has to work almost as hard as the performers, whether it be joining in the songs, assisting in conjuring tricks, booing the villain and warning the hero with ‘He’s behind you!’ or cheering them on!
Tickets are on sale now – please book early as performances are selling out quickly.
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