Allan Mayer’s Weblog

Oh no it isn’t…

Posted on: December 17, 2008

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Can you guess which one is me (you can tell by the legs)

I have had so many positive comments- not just here but through personal e-mails and on writers’ forums (or is it ‘fora?’) about my pantomime posting ‘It’s Behind You…’ that I was inspired to blog once more on the theme.

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I’ve always thought that pearls go so well with chest hair (OO-er)

But I am aware, because of the global nature of the internet, there will be some of you who are wondering what on earth I am talking about. I got into a conversation some time ago via Instant messaging with a lady from New England. We got onto the subject of Pantomime, and she had never heard of it.

It felt strange trying to get over to her the panto traditions of audience participation,  stock jokes and the tendency for cross dressing which are such a part of the UK Christmas scene. It reminded me of an occasion when I tried to describe to a man from Papua New Guinea how we bring a Christmas pudding to the table and then set fire to it. He rolled around laughing like one of the Martians from the old ‘Smash’ instant potato ads. In trying to describe panto to an American I sensed a similar width of cultural divide.

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For this we used real rabbit droppings… oh no we didn’t

One notable example of an American falling hook, line and sinker for the form is Henry Winkler. I didn’t intend the pun there, but  it was Winkler who played Captain Hook in Peter Pan and loved it so much that he has returned to do it again this year. The Panto stage is also being graced this year by none other than Mickey Rooney.

So, without going into the historical side, what is Panto?

Well, it is a children’s entertainment… or is it?  A well directed Panto will remember that with every child there come adult ‘bums* on seats’ (*or asses) who also need entertaining for two hours. So panto is often peppered with innuendo worthy of that other British institution, the carry-on film. So flying over the heads of children all over the country this year will be lines such as ‘Ten 0’clock and still no Dick!’

A major feature of Panto are the stock characters. There is a hero (male but played by a woman,) a dame (female but played by a man,) a heroine (who usually ends up getting married to the hero at the end,) new-year-06-0061

a comedy link manbigaladdin

and, of course, a baddie.

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Minor roles include a king or pompous official of some kind.And a good fairy…Then there are the audience reactions. At some point there will always be a ‘oh yes he is’ to which the audience replies ‘oh no he isn’t. If a ghost/ skeleton etc. appears then the cry is ‘it’s behind you,’ although it is obligatory for the characters on stage to look the wrong way.

And don’t forget the stock gags. One of these is for the dame and other goodies to be tramping through dark woods, where one by one they see a ghoul and run off screaming, until only the dame is left. When eventually they come face to face and the ghoul sees the dame in all her glory, it is he who runs off screaming.

Now what interests me is: how many readers of this are totally perplexed? I know that there are people following this blog in the States- am I right to assume that you know nothing of the panto tradition or is that a generalisation? This is also read in Canada and Australia- do you have Panto in these countries, or is it just us strange brits?

I would be interested to hear from you.

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1 Response to "Oh no it isn’t…"

Hi Allen;

You may rest assured that the panto tradition, around this time of the year, is alive and well in the remenants of the British Empire such as in Canada.

Best,
Wally

PS: love your legs!

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