Rebecca discusses our communal love for a long-lived Christmas tradition.
After seeing online that Amy Hart, former Love Island contestant, was starring in her local pantomime, it got me thinking about why so many celebrities get involved in them. John Barrowman’s performance in the 2012 SECC pantomime of Jack and the Beanstalk was probably my first experience of being somewhat starstruck, as eleven-year-old me was shocked she was actually in the same room as the Doctor Who actor. At 20 years old, I still love a pantomime. Having been part of British history for over 200 years, pantomimes really have stood the test of time, but why? Why do we love pantos long after our childhoods?
Firstly, although they tend to retell famous fairy tales we all know and love, they always have little twists that offer a shake-up. Musical theatre renditions of current popular songs get the audience singing and excited, albeit left wondering their relevance to the actual plot. Particularly in Scottish pantomimes, the stories are often set in locations that play off real Scottish towns, fitting in jokes about the local area that particularly appeal to the adults accompanying excitable children. The innuendos and quips targeted to adults that make it into the script are also what sees pantomimes attract audiences of all ages, while children enjoy the participation aspect, dancing about on stage or desperately trying to inform the lovable main character the villain is in fact behind them, adults can enjoy the risqué jokes that go right over the kids’ heads.
Many a modern panto hosts novelty additions with 3D glasses or other animation effects which, as cringey as it sounds, really does bring the magic to life, especially for children already hyped for the magic of Christmas. Pantomimes are also very special because they are often the first piece of theatre most children see. The fun dance numbers, participation, singing and shouting that would be unacceptable in regular productions, see kids having a theatre experience that is appropriate for them, perhaps encouraging continued theatre-going as they get older.
"The fun dance numbers, participation, singing and shouting that would be unacceptable in regular productions, see kids having a theatre experience that is appropriate for them, perhaps encouraging continued theatre-going as they get older."
I’m sure most people can relate to the feeling of Christmas losing a little bit of its sparkle as we get older with more financial responsibilities, family dramas, pressure to socialise, party and make everything perfect on the big day. But at a panto, everyone watching is allowed to feel like a child again for a couple of hours, shouting desperately at the villain or enjoying the fake snow falling on you at the end when the inevitable wedding bells ring. Sometimes just hearing the children in the audience engage with the story, screaming and laughing at the jokes and special effects, has their festive excitement rub off on us.
So it’s no wonder celebrities choose to spend Christmas time in pantomimes when you consider the immense happiness they have provided audiences for years. Having performed in pantomimes myself, I’ve experienced first-hand the satisfaction that comes with children cackling away in the audience as you throw lollipops into the crowd and bringing little ones on stage singing “the 12 days of Christmas” with a Glaswegian twist.
Pantomimes let us forget about the stresses that come with the Christmas period and indulge in some silliness that our daily lives don’t often allow for. After an extremely difficult two years for the performing arts industry, I thoroughly encourage you to support any local pantos nearby and, no matter how silly it feels, allow yourself to get lost in the childish spirit of Christmas just for a few hours.
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