I will always have very fond memories of attending the theatre every Christmas to watch the festive pantomime…
Whether it was Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, or Jack and the Beanstalk, I remember it being one of the best things about the lead up to Christmas.
When I stopped attending the pantomime with family, I can’t say it was something that I missed, as it felt like something I had grown out of. However, as part of my volunteering, I attended the pantomime again last year and was able to relive the magic that I had experienced as a child. I had a new-found appreciation for the jokes, the improvisation and the new and updated songs they used.
Pantomime is originally thought to come from the 16th century, and by the Victorian era, it had become something of a Christmas tradition. That much hasn’t changed. Perhaps it’s because they are such a highlight of our childhoods, that they still shine so brightly in our minds. In reality, it’s likely that pantomime is the only theatre experience a child will get during the year, and therefore stands out as something special. In a way, pantomime is a celebration of the child in all of us, with their jokes, crazy costumes and songs that allow us to relive the experiences we all had when we were children.
The vital components of any pantomime these days include the protagonist (usually male or female looking for love), the dame, the villain (usually a wicked witch or stepmother), the best friend character (who is probably in love with the protagonist) and the love interest. A pantomime is predictable yes, but without any one of these components, it just wouldn’t be the same. Seeing the dame on stage in their flamboyant costumes would be the highlight of anyone’s trip to the theatre, so much so it’s hard to imagine a pantomime without it.
Then there’s the matter of when things don’t go to plan. The memory of pantomime that stands out the most to me is when actors forget their lines or do something wrong and are forced to rely on improvisation. For me, that’s when the actors really come into their own and demonstrate how good they really are, being able to make things up as they go along and get a fair few laughs from the audience as they go – these moments will always stand out as being the best.
Who could forget the classic “he’s behind you!” and “oh no you’re not/oh yes I am” lines as well. A key part of pantomime is always the audience participation, in recent years expanding to get the audience on their feet to dance along to songs in the show.
Pantomime may be a little outdated to some and revisiting the same classics every other year may be tiresome, but pantomime is a tradition for many households, and Christmas wouldn’t be the same without them.
You can watch Peter Pan at the Theatre Royal Nottingham and Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood at the Playhouse until January this year.
By Faith Pring