Panto season is officially upon us, tis the season of cheap laughs, B-list celebrities and pop songs. It is believed (according to Wikipedia) that Pantomimes originates from Ancient Greece, a group that ‘imitates all’ accompanied by sung narrative, instrumental music. This developed in the Middle Ages; the pantomime resembled British folk plays with comic fights, coarse humour and fantastic creatures. It is thought that during this transformation, the pantomime horse emerged. The pantomimes of today have strong links with commedia dell’arte; a form of popular theatre from Italy, each story has fixed characters such as the lovers, the father and servants.
The stories are the same, but the style has changed. I try to support my local theatre during Christmas but you don’t go for the quality. It’s funnier when it all goes wrong. It’s the people you go for rather than the story because we all know them. We all know Cinderella, Aladdin and Snow White, but who will they have and how will they do it? My local Panto is Southend-On-Sea’s Cliffs Pavilion, but we have the same face: Shane Richie. He doesn’t have the title role of Aladdin like last year, but as Buttons in Cinderella, I can safely assume the odd close to the bone Essex joke and an Eastenders reference will be present.
The bigger celebrities can be found further into London. Lily Savage as Widow Twankey can be found in The O2, Jennifer Ellison as Peter Pan at the Churchill Theatre, Priscilla Presley can be found in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at the New Wimbledon Theatre and the Richmond Theatre has Tim Vine starring in Aladdin. So should we be upset that panto is, for lack of a better word, deteriorating? It’s gone through many changes since Ancient Greece; but could this change be for the better. It’s certainly getting more bums on seat, and for many small regional theatres, their only chance to be creative and make a profit. So you may not recognise the face on the stage but support your local theatre, it’s the season of generosity and a good laugh.
On that note, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.