Warne Pantomine1890

By Wendy Hughes

Theatres up and down the country have opened their doors to begin the Pantomime season, and having missed a pantomime for several years, I already have my ticket for Aladdin at Bognor Regis with a friend.  We shall treat ourselves to a lunch before enjoying an afternoon of fun and laughter.


But what is a Pantomime (or ‘Panto’ for short!)?  In a nutshell it is a traditional British Christmas play, but it really came from very un-British traditions, and had nothing to do with Christmas whatever!  It is primarily a children’s entertainment show, in the theatre, based on traditional children’s fairy stories such as Sleeping Beauty, Peter Pan, Cinderella, ,and Mother Goose,  but it really began as an entertainment for adult and is now enjoyed by young and old alike.  Pantomimes take place around the Christmas period and are nearly always based on well known children’s stories such as Peter Pan, Aladdin, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty etc. Pantomimes are performed not only in the best theatres in the land but also in village halls throughout Britain and are always well attended.

Mother Goose pantomine

Audience participation is a very important part of a pantomime. The audience are encouraged to boo the villain whenever he enters the stage, argue with the Dame (who is always a man) and warn the Principal Boy (who is always a girl) when the villain is behind them by shouting out “He’s behind you.

pantomine characters

An example in a version of Snow White the wicked queen would say to the audience,’ I am the fairest of them all’

The audience would respond ‘Oh no you’re not.’

Queen – ‘Oh yes I am’.

Audience – ‘Oh no you’re not’.

Pantomine dame

Slapstick is another important part of a British pantomime with the throwing of custard pies, the ugly sisters falling over, and lots of silly brightly coloured costumes.  There is also the pantomime horse which is played by two people in a horses’ costume.

principal boy

The timing of the British pantomime at Christmas and the role reversal of the lead characters may have evolved from the Tudor Feast of Fools that was presided over by the Lord of Misrule. The feast was an unruly event, involving much drinking, revelry and role reversal. The Lord of Misrule, normally a commoner with a reputation of knowing how to enjoy himself, was selected to direct the entertainment.  And the festival is thought to have originated from the benevolent Roman masters who allowed their servants to be the boss for a while.

Snow White

But whatever its origins by the end of the pantomime the villain has been defeated, true love has conquered all and everyone lives happily ever after and everyone goes home having enjoyed the show.

The end of the show

About Wendy Hughes

Wendy turned to writing, in 1989, when ill-health and poor vision forced her into early medical retirement. Since then she has published 26 nonfiction books, and over 2000 articles. Her work has appeared in magazines as diverse as The Lady, Funeral Service Journal, On the Road, 3rd Stone, Celtic Connections, Best of British, and Guiding magazine. She has a column in an America/Welsh newspaper for ex-pats on old traditions and customs in Wales. Her books include many on her native Wales, Anglesey Past and Present, The Story of Brecknock, Brecon, a pictorial History of the Town, Carmarthen, a History and Celebration and Tales of Old Glamorgan, and a book on Walton on Thames in the Images of England series, a company history and two books on the charity Hope Romania. She has also co-authored two story/activity books for children. Her latest books are: Haunted Worthing published in October 2010, a new colour edition of The Story of Pembrokeshire published in March 2011, and Shipwrecks of Sussex in June 2011 and Not a Guide to Worthing in 2014. She is working on a book entitled A-Z of Curious Sussex which will be published in 2016 Wendy also works with clients to bring their work up to publishable standard and is currently working on an autobiography with a lady that was married to a very famous 1940’s travel writer. Wendy has spent many years campaigning and writing on behalf of people affected by Stickler Syndrome, a progressive genetic connective tissue disorder from which she herself suffers. She founded the Stickler Syndrome Support Group and raises awareness of the condition amongst the medical profession, and produces the group’s literature, and has written the only book on the condition, Stickler The Elusive Syndrome, and has also contributed to a DVD on the condition, Stickler syndrome: Learning the Facts. She has also writing three novels, Sanctimonious Sin, a three generation saga set in Wales at the turn of the century, Power That Heal set in the Neolithic period entitled Powers that Heal, and a semi biographical book entitled New Beginnings which deals with two generations coping with blindness and a genetic condition. She has also had a handful of short stories published, and in her spare time is working on several at the moment. She also gives talks on a variety of subjects including Writing and Placing Articles, Writing Local History, Writing as Therapy, Writing your first novel, etc, and runs workshops on the craft of writing – both fiction and non-fiction. She is a member of the Society of Women Writers and Journalists, and a member of the Society of Authors.