|When:||December and January|
|Time:||Evenings & some afternoons - exact times vary|
All over the UK , women dress as the Principal Boy and men dress as Dames and Ugly Sisters, telling awful jokes with slapstick humour in a unique dramatic tradition called Pantomime. The origins of the genre are thought to lie in the eighteenth century Italian theatre but it’s since developed a life of its own in Britain. The season usually lasts through December into mid-January and is inevitably associated with Christmas and New Year festivities ; theatres and village halls alike are the setting, with a performance in most towns often featuring celebrity actors or media personalities. There is a range of stock plays like Puss in Boots, Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella and other stories taken from childrens literature, but the plays are aimed at all ages and may feature double-entendre for the benefit of the grown-ups. Expect extravagant costumes, adapted renditions of popular songs and music, dancing, comedy and of course a happy ending with a lavish finale. The audience is expected to participate at least in cheering the heroes and hissing or booing the villains and it’s common for a small group of children to be invited on-stage for a brief moment of glory. If you haven’t been to one, you’ve missed out on a vital chunk of ournational culture!
There will be a pantomime near you – just look out in the local press for adverts. My local one is at the Theatre Royal in Newcastle and it runs for nearly two months over midwinter, with matinee as well as evening performances. If you haven’t any children to take with you don’t worry -plenty of adults go. For a cheaper option than the grand theatres, it’s common for local amateur dramatics groups to put on a panto as a charity fundraiser but the season is understandably short.
Photo by Thwaites Theatre Photos.