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What Is Pantomime?

Pantomime originated in Ancient Greece and became popular in ancient Rome. It grew as a type of theatre in Italy in the middle ages and reached England in the 16th Century. It takes many of its ideas from pagan festivals that were still celebrated in Mediaeval England, where the world was turned topsy turvy – like men playing women’s parts in panto.

As it became more popular, panto became funnier and included lots of references to current events. As theatre’s became more sophisticated, they used bigger and bigger effects in panto to make them more magical. However, there was a drop in popularity and at the end of the 19th Century panto had practically vanished from theatre.

Today Pantomime is very popular and is performed at Christmas time. They are written using familiar stories and fairy tales for family and school audiences, using lots of songs and dance, slapstick and jokes.

Look Out For:

The pantomime dame is played by a man in women’s costumes and make up.

• The audience are invited to join in on the fun with things to call out and things thrown into the crowd.

• The baddie usually gets booed every time he comes on stage.

• There is often an ‘It’s Behind You’ scene where you have to try and warn the actors of something happening behind their back.

Panto Around the World

Pantomime is mainly a British Tradition, but some other countries where lots of British people have emigrated to also perform panto.

• Australia – Panto is performed at Christmas in Oz with family stars and lots of gags. They also do panto on the radio.

• USA – Pantomime is generally understood to be traditional mime and is very different to the British panto. However, a few states do have pantos just like those in the UK.

• Canada – There is a real Panto held in British Columbia every year, using lots of local gossip and jokes.