The Origins of The Pantomime
As the festive period finally draws to a close, I thought I’d take a look into one of the most common Christmas traditions, like many, our family goes to see the Pantomime in our town centre. From Jack and the Beanstalk, to Aladdin, every year we watch a new show, and in every show we see the same classic features, but where did they come from exactly? I thought I’d have a look into the old ‘He’s behind you!’….
Although many believe that Panto is a very British tradition, it actually seems as if it originates from Commedia Dell’Arte, a type of 16th Century Italian Street Theatre. Theatre Impresario John Rich took qualities from Commedia Dell’Arte and brought them into English Plays. His stories included lovers, magic, comedy, slapstick and many more features we see in classic pantomimes. Even the characters we all love and hate spurr from the original italians, in each pantomime we can see Pantalone, and old man, Pierrot, the ‘clown’, Columbine, a beautiful maiden, and Arlecchino, the scheming servant. (BBC Arts)
By the Victorian Era Pantomimes had becomes a regular Christmas scene, by combining Panto with British Music Hall, a type of musical entertainment, we see the beginnings of today’s style of show. Aimed mainly towards children, some of the most popular titles being, ‘Snow White’, ‘Peter Pan’ and ‘Cinderella’, famous children’s stories have been brought to life in a much more interactive environment. Using local celebrities as a crowd generator, theatres have been using them to increase their audiences for over a decade. In each show we see ‘The Pantomime Dame’, such as Widow Twanky or Dame Trott, these are usually male comedians/celebrities, dressed in elaborate costumes and bright accessories, the Dame uses a lot of adult humour and is audience loved character.
As an annual Pantomime go-er I love seeing new shows take the stage, and now I know a bit more about the origins of Pantomime I can’t wait for the next one, and to see the original features in action.