British Pantomime

I’ve just been to Portugal for a few days of winter sun and was amused when I saw these holiday makers dressed as Santas. It reminded me that with Christmas just around the corner, all over Britain people will be dressing up for pantomimes. In the festive season, the pantomime, or ‘panto’ as most people call it, is performed in theatres everywhere. So, what is a panto? In brief, it’s a fun show aimed at children. It apparently originated in Italy and came to England in the 17th Century, we immediately took it to our hearts and it has remained a quintessential part of British Christmas ever since.

Up and down the country celebrities and amateurs are appearing in productions of classic children’s stories such as Snow White, Cinderella, Dick Whittington and Aladdin to name but a few.  So what are the ingredients of a traditional panto? 

A good panto is a love story with a difference.  There is often a narrator and the main characters are the principal boy, the principal girl, the dame; these are usually 'the goodies'. There are also 'the baddies' and usually an animal. The principal boy is a girl dressed as a boy who falls in love with the principal girl who in turn is also a girl.  The dame is an older man dressed as a woman and usually related to the principal boy.  There are often other men dressed as women and along with the dame and the baddies they introduce the comedy element to the proceedings.  In addition, there is normally an animal involved, which in reality is someone (or two people) dressed in an animal costume and of course the animal talks and often gives advice.  The audience are encouraged to participate throughout the show, they shout at the cast warning them of the baddie’s entrance; the classic cry is ‘he’s behind you!!!’ or they disagree with the cast ‘oh yes he will’ versus ‘oh no he won’t’.  There is a lot of slapstick involved (visual comedy) with the comedy characters but finally the principal girl and boy live happily ever after. 

All in all, it’s utterly ridiculous but it wouldn’t be Christmas without it!  Treat yourself and see for yourselves!  Happy Christmas.

By Heather


The festive season - (exp) Christmas
To take something to your heart – (exp) to love something
To dress up – (phr. v) to put on clothes for a character
Quintessential – (adj) the pure and essential part of something
Celebrity – (n) famous person
Amateur – (n) not a professional person
Narrator – (n) story teller
Goodies and baddies – (n) good characters and bad characters
Proceedings – (n) series of events
Cast – (n) an actor or actress in a play or film
Slapstick – (n) action such as throwing pies in faces
Ridiculous – (adj) silly or laughable

Related blog posts

All articles Next article

Post your questions and comments:

Why study at The London School of English?

  • Rated “Excellent” in over 450 independent client reviews
  • Over 100 years’ experience
  • Tailored training delivers clear results
  • Memorable experiences in London, Canterbury or online
Find out more