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It Wouldnt Be Christmas Without A Pantomime

A visit to the Pantomime is a longstanding Christmas tradition. Children and grown-ups alike love it, this peculiarly British way to celebrate the festive season. When else would you take the kids to see a woman playing a man, a man playing a woman and the most blatantly fake animal ever seen on a stage?

There are several elements that must be included in a traditional Panto; the show should be based on a well-known fairytale; there must be singing and dancing; topical jokes as well as old chestnuts; shameless double entendre; lots of audience participation; familiar stock characters must appear, and of course there must be a transformation scene where the put-upon hero or heroine finally achieves their destiny.

The word pantomime originally meant the person performing in a dumb show - a play without words that today we would call a mime. Later it began to refer to the show itself. The form of the modern pantomime is thought to be based on the Italian Commedia dellarte, a humorous play which would combine music, acrobatics, and slapstick and incorporate familiar characters, stock storylines and topical jokes.

In the late 19th century the trend for casting a well-known actor in the pantomime began at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, and continues to this day. You could be fortunate enough to see a nice performance from a comedy legend, although nowadays the roles are more likely to go to soap stars, ex-members of short-lived pop bands and TV reality show survivors.

So why do we love it so much? Firstly there is little on at the theatre that the whole family might enjoy together. Secondly it is all so familiar; you know the stories and the characters, it is just like affixing the Christmas tree with the decorations you use each year, a long-remembered ritual. Ultimately however, the charm is its utter irresistibility. However down you feel when you go into the theatre, you cannot help but groan at the appalling jokes, cannot help but join in with its behind you! and cannot help but sing along with many people else in the finale.

Most importantly it is the best way to introduce your children to the magic of live theatre. There is nothing like the excitement of a live performance, with its unpredictability, its tension and most of all, its atmosphere. A pantomime is the perfect way to let your children acquired skill that magic.


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