Pantomime, Essential Christmas entertainment, Oh no it isn't, Oh yes it is
Are you like me? Getting on in years I may be, but I still love PANTOMIME.
From those amateurish Pantos of my childhood, that were held each year in my local Church-hall, to the more flamboyant and expensive offerings in the Theatre, Pantomimes remain fun.
Despite being traditional they have moved with the times. Pantos often include popular entertainers, whilst the basic story may have a modern twist and there are even saucy adult Pantos, featuring raucous comedians, these days.
For me though a good Pantomime is all about all round, good clean family fun.
There may be the slight double entendre here and there but there is nothing really offensive. A great Pantomime is one which you can take the children to see, fully confident that they will not be hearing swear words and seeing sexually explicit entertainment.
Pantomimes are not new
It's thought that the earliest forms of pantomime were first performed in Ancient Greece and then Rome. However our modern pantos have their roots in the 15th and 16th Century.
The first English pantomimes were more of a small performance which occurred between the acts of something such as an opera. Eventually they came into their own and full pantomimes were performed. By the 1800s pantomime, as we know it, was established in England.
Although pantomimes take place all over the world it is a peculiar, very British form of entertainment. Many people still view a visit to the theatre to watch a pantomime as part of their Christmas celebrations.
Usually any panto plot is loosely based on a fairy-tale and the most popular pantomimes tend to be Cinderella, Snow White, Babes in the Wood, Puss in Boots, Sleeping Beauty, Dick Whittington and Aladdin.
That said the last one I saw in the flesh was Robinson Crusoe.
Pantomime is one of the most politically incorrect forms of entertainment
The Principal boy is always played by a very good looking woman. There are always at least one or two pantomime Dames played by men. These are usually gross caricatures of women; at least that's the theory. I would hate to meet any real woman who was like a pantomime dame! More than once male drag artists or very camp guys have played the panto dame.
No decent panto can survive without a nasty villain, or two. This evil character is vital for stirring up the audience and adding some tension to the fun.
Panto costumes are usually loud, brash and colourful which is all part of the fun. Sometimes, especially when an appropriate comedian is part of the cast, there is a slapstick section of the show.
Panto is all about audience participation, for example:-
The favourite panto performance of my childhood was Ruby Murray starring in Cinderella at our local theatre. I was taken as part of a school party and loved every minute. The music and costumes were just lovely to a starry eyed young girl.
As an adult a favourite one year was at the same theatre; this time accompanying a sister-in-law and one of her boys; it was Cinderella again, but the stars were comedy duo, The Krankies, and boy did we laugh.
A couple of years ago I went with a gang of gals to a Radio Humberside production at the local University which was excellent. It was Robinson Crusoe and this low budget charity panto was great for its amateurish feel.
Panto is not for everyone and often adult males shy away from it. However we gals, with or without children, tend to love pantomime, no matter what our age.
OH YES WE DO!
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