“It’s behind you” : The story of Pantomime
The main purpose of a pantomime is light-hearted entertainment. Good old fashioned fun in other words! That cornerstone of the genre has stood strong over hundreds of years of ‘panto’. But who is in the audience, and how they are entertained has changed beyond all measure.
The ‘mime’ part of the term seems almost irrelevant now – but at the beginning it was key. The first recorded reference to British pantomime concerns a show by John Weaver called "The Tavern Bilkers”. It was performed at Drury Lane Theatre in 1702. Primarily a dance piece inspired by the Italian improvised visual comedy "Commedia dell' Arte", it involved acrobatics, buffoonery and comic dances by a 'Harlequin' character. But no dialogue!
The audience Weaver had in mind was first and foremost adults – he wanted them to laugh out loud! Pantomime has always stayed true to the idea of audience involvement. In Edwardian times theatre audiences in general had become quite reserved, saving any emotions for the end. However, in the same era, panto audiences were still encouraged to respond without restraint – and they did!
Over time, the dance and mime elements of panto began to blend with dialogue and children were increasingly catered-to in the stories and humour. The familiar ‘Disney’ themes such as good triumphing over evil and the hero and heroine marrying, began to permeate almost every pantomime story.
Today, children are often used to well-structured stories told on film, such as the Disney versions of classic pantomime stories like Cinderella. But they are less used to the idea of improvisation and audience involvement.
Our approach is to focus on age-appropriate storytelling with charm, character and wit. We pride ourselves on making shows that elevate children’s imaginations and provoke impulsive joining-in.
Jess Singer, one of the talented performers who takes our Cinderella show into primary schools, sees it like this:
Our actors don’t stand high up on a stage as a distant vision! They’re on the same level as the children in the children’s own school hall. They quickly build a connection and the children are confident to join-in with the magical story - helping our hero and heroine through their adventure.
Just like Weaver, we want the audience to laugh out loud too – including the teachers! Happily the feedback we get tells us that we are succeeding! Here’s a quick taster:
We have four pantomimes on the road this festive season:
Send us a quick enquiry here.