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The Pantomime

The Pantomime
Dick Whittington and his cat at the Palladium, London. © www.britainonview.com

Pantomime! A long-running English institution grown out of pagan mid-winter festivity and our theatre tradition. A bastion of English irreverence symbolised in the enduring features of men dressed as women and women dressed as boys.

A much-loved British/Christmas tradition, Panto has been a firm family favourite for years. Originally silent productions, pantomimes were mix of fairy stories and folk tales. Nowadays, they are as likely to be as based on a cartoon – complete with some Z-lister from Big Brother and an Eastenders cast member (preferably Babs).

Participation is paramount, ideally in the form of lots of hissing and booing of the villain and cheering for the hero. Good old family entertainment - bawdy, corny, smutty and enjoyable, not to mention very much in keeping with our sense of light-hearted fun.

Panto has also enjoyed nods of approval from respected thesps of late, with no other than Sir Ian Mckellen appointing himself as Widow Twankey in 2004. Ian McKellen explained the lasting appeal of this classic British genre: "Pantomime has everything theatrical - song, dance, verse, slapstick, soliloquy, audience participation, spectacle, cross-dressing and a good plot, strong on morality and romance. What more could you want for a family outing?"

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