What is a Panto anyway?

It’s just one Dame thing after another

Every year we come across people who have never heard of British Pantomime, or who upon hearing the term, immediately think of French men fighting their way out of imaginary boxes. British Pantomime is nothing like that (quite the opposite, actually), at once it breaks all the rules of theater, and at the same time adheres to a set of rules all of its own. I could go on about its roots in commedia dell’arte and its rebirth in the ribaldry of Victorian music halls, and its over 150 years of built-in traditions… but let’s just say it’s part Monty Python, part Vaudeville, part old-fashioned variety show and part fairy tale, all held together by the thinnest semblance of a plot.

The Rules

Rule Number One

Everyone has fun. We aren’t kidding about that one.

The Dame

The Dame is usually a highly flamboyant mother or aunt figure in the story played by a man. We’re not entirely sure when this tradition began, and there are many conflicting stories as to its origins, but considering there was a time when men played all parts regardless of whether they were male or female, we have a feeling it began there.

The Principal Boy

The Principal Boy, or hero of the story, is traditionally played by a woman. This goes back to Peter Pan and even further to mid-19th century productions of Jack and the Beanstalk. Unless, of course, the hero IS a woman, in which case it is also played by a woman and no one considers this unfair.

Panto Animals

Nearly every panto has some kind or person/people dressed up as an animal. Dick Whittington has a cat, Mother Goose has a Goose, and Goldilocks has Bears. Our shows to date have had 4 cows, a cat, 2 horses, a magical deer and next year a very furry alien. Not all Panto Animals can talk, but every Panto Animal knows how to party.

Dad Jokes

British Panto is peppered with the kind of jokes you can find on the inside of a candy wrapper or in a big book of really bad jokes, the kind that kids learn before they go through their sullen phase and then remember years later when they have children of their own. We at Suburban Legend love Dad Jokes. Like “Why do you never see elephants hiding in trees? Because they’re so good at it.” That’s comedy.
British panto is also big on bawdy humor, double-entendres, and things which might sound a little risque. We often tone down that sort of thing for American audiences, but if something slips out, we just carry on like it didn’t happen, and if you notice it then feel free to laugh at it.

Audience Participation

Panto is nothing without its audience getting involved. The secret behind every successful panto show? WE WANT YOU TO BE LOUD! There are greetings to be repeated, calls of “It’s behind you!”, “Oh no it isn’t, Oh yes it is!” and a constant breaking of the 4th wall. If a joke falls flat, we make sure to tell it again until it gets a proper laugh.

The Silly Song

Every Panto has at least one song where the audience is required to join in. Sometimes the words are printed in the playbill, most of the time they are written in huge letters on boards for the audience to follow.
Anything Else You Want To Know?
If there’s anything else you want to know about British Panto, our shows or how you can get involved, Get In Touch!

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