The Pantomime season is currently in full swing here in England, with many British, Australian and American stars strutting their stuff in full costume, to a captive audience of adults and children alike. Amongst the American stars taking part are Henry Winkler (better known as The Fonz!) and Steve Guttenberg (Police Academy). It’s even rumoured that the Hoff was considering taking part in a British panto! Many Australian actors and actresses from Home and Away and Neighbours are also eager to star in British panto. Pantomime (or panto as it’s also known) is one of those great British institutions, loved by children and adults of all ages. It’s a unique form of entertainment not found in any other country of the world. Pantomime is always performed around Christmas time (running until early in the New Year) and is usually based around popular children’s stories such as Peter Pan, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk and Sleeping Beauty. The stories always have a happy fairytale ending. There is always a villain who comes to upset the proceedings but by the end of the show, he or she has been defeated and true love and happiness reigns supreme. Pantomime is great for children as it sends them the underlying message that good will always triumph over evil. Audience participation is positively encouraged and all part of the fun of panto. Children and adults alike love to boo the villain and warn the hero or heroine of the show where the villain is, shouting, “He’s (She’s) behind you!”. “Oh Yes he is! Oh No he isn’t!” Pantomimes are always great fun for both children and adults alike.
The word Pantomime literally means “all kinds of mime”. It is thought that British Pantomime has its origins and is modelled on the early masques of Stuart and Elizabethan times. The early masques of the 14th century tended to be mime, musical or spoken dramas performed in some of the grand English country houses. Times have certainly changed quite a bit since then and from the 17th century, they evolved into a theme party. Almost every pantomime nowadays has a Dame who is usually played by a man and a Principal Boy character who is usually played by a woman. This is thought to have its origins from the “Feast of Fools”, an entertainment event held in Tudor times which involved role reversal, drinking and revelry! Pantomimes are always well attended and despite the credit crunch, over 3 million people (including myself!) will visit a panto this season. So if you’re an overseas visitor staying in England at the moment, don’t forget to go and visit a Pantomime. It’s a unique experience you’ll never forget and I can promise you’ll have lots of fun, light relief from all the bad things going on in the world at the moment. Go on, visit a Pantomime today.