“It’s behind you” : The story of Pantomime

The main purpose of a pantomime is light-hearted entertainment. Good old fashioned fun in other words! That cornerstone of the genre has stood strong over hundreds of years of ‘panto’. But who is in the audience, and how they are entertained has changed beyond all measure.

The ‘mime’ part of the term seems almost irrelevant now – but at the beginning it was key. The first recorded reference to British pantomime concerns a show by John Weaver called "The Tavern Bilkers”. It was performed at Drury Lane Theatre in 1702. Primarily a dance piece inspired by the Italian improvised visual comedy "Commedia dell' Arte", it involved acrobatics, buffoonery and comic dances by a 'Harlequin' character. But no dialogue!

The audience Weaver had in mind was first and foremost adults – he wanted them to laugh out loud! Pantomime has always stayed true to the idea of audience involvement. In Edwardian times theatre audiences in general had become quite reserved, saving any emotions for the end. However, in the same era, panto audiences were still encouraged to respond without restraint – and they did!

Over time, the dance and mime elements of panto began to blend with dialogue and children were increasingly catered-to in the stories and humour. The familiar ‘Disney’ themes such as good triumphing over evil and the hero and heroine marrying, began to permeate almost every pantomime story.

Today, children are often used to well-structured stories told on film, such as the Disney versions of classic pantomime stories like Cinderella. But they are less used to the idea of improvisation and audience involvement. 

Our approach is to focus on age-appropriate storytelling with charm, character and wit. We pride ourselves on making shows that elevate children’s imaginations and provoke impulsive joining-in.

Jess Singer, one of the talented performers who takes our Cinderella show into primary schools, sees it like this:

Some of the children we’re performing to might never have seen any live theatre before and so it’s really exciting for them – and us! Seeing the children get lost in the story is wonderful. They really root for the good guys and love booing the baddies. That kind of audience interaction is important, especially with the ages of the children we perform to. We’re not just telling a story ‘at’ them, we’re involving them and making them a part of the success of Happy Ever After.
— Jess Singer
Jess Singer

Our actors don’t stand high up on a stage as a distant vision! They’re on the same level as the children in the children’s own school hall. They quickly build a connection and the children are confident to join-in with the magical story - helping our hero and heroine through their adventure.  

Just like Weaver, we want the audience to laugh out loud too – including the teachers! Happily the feedback we get tells us that we are succeeding! Here’s a quick taster:

The actors engaged the entire audience from three year olds to eleven and the adults also enjoyed it. Well worth the money.
— Headteacher, Dr Walker's CofE Primary School Fyfield
Your team did a fantastic job - they worked hard, the pitch was entirely appropriate, and the interactivity was great. Our children universally gave the production a thumbs up, and it was an hour well spent. The adults amongst us really enjoyed the humour, corny jokes are THE best kind of jokes!
— Deputy Head, The Grove Infant and Nursery School
Cinderella came to our school yesterday and we all thought it was wonderful. The actors were brilliant and it was just the right tone for the children. There was interaction, lots of booing and ‘look behind you’...everything that a good panto should have. We loved it.
— Chair of the PTA, Walberton and Binsted CofE Primary School

We have four pantomimes on the road this festive season:

Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Aladdin and Scroogical

Send us a quick enquiry here.