Some of you may know from earlier posts, that I belong to an Amateur Dramatic Group. The productions that we put on over the year follow the same pattern. In the summer (June/July) we put on a sensible(ish) play, and in the winter (January), we put on the annual pantomime.
The Pantomime is one of the more surreal British traditions that hasn't really made it past our shores.
Knowing that a fair few of you guys are not in the UK, I feel that an explanation (with the assistance of Wikipedia) of what a pantomime consists of is required:
Pantomime story lines and scripts are almost always based on traditional children's stories, like Aladdin, Peter Pan, and Cinderella.
While the familiarity of the audience with the original story is generally assumed, plot lines are almost always 'adapted' for comic or satirical effect, it being common for characters and situations from other stories to be interpolated into the plot. Certain familiar scenes tend to recur, regardless of plot relevance, and highly unlikely resolution of the plot is common. Straight re-tellings of the original stories are rare in the extreme
There are a number of traditions that a Pantomime follows. Here are a few (with pictures from some of our past performances.):
The leading male juvenile character (the principal boy) - is traditionally played by a young woman, usually in tight-fitting male garments (such as breeches) that make her female charms evident.
An older woman (the pantomime dame - often the hero's mother) is usually played by a man in drag.
Risqué double entendre, often wringing innuendo out of perfectly innocent phrases. This is, in theory, over the heads of the children in the audience.
Audience participation, including calls of "He's behind you!" (or "Look behind you!"), and "Oh, yes it is!" and "Oh, no it isn't!" The audience is always encouraged to boo the villain and "awwwww" the poor victims, such as the rejected dame, who usually fancies the prince.
Music may be original but is more likely to combine well-known tunes with re-written lyrics. At least one "audience participation" song is traditional: one half of the audience may be challenged to sing 'their' chorus louder than the other half.
The good fairy enters from stage right (from the audience's point of view this is on the left) and the villain enters from stage left (right from the point of view of the audience). This convention goes back to the medieval mystery plays, where the right side of the stage symbolised Heaven and the left side symbolised Hell.
Sometimes the story villain will squirt members of the audience with water guns or pretend to throw a bucket of 'water' at the audience that is actually full of streamers.
A slapstick comedy routine may be performed, often a decorating or baking scene, with humour based on throwing messy substances.
The Chorus, who can be considered extras on-stage, and often appear in multiple scenes (but as different characters) and who perform a variety of songs and dances throughout the show. Due to their multiple roles they may have as much stage-time as the lead characters themselves.
Are you still with me? Phew! So, why am I telling you all of this? Well... last week, we decided the title of the January 2014 panto.
We then looked for volunteers to write the script. Yes, you guessed it. I got the gig. I now have a year to produce the first draft of a full length (minimum 90 minutes) pantomime, and a polished script by May/June when we start auditions.
At the moment, my head is full of plot lines, one liner jokes, and silly situations. Excited isn't the word!