The Christmas pantomime or panto is one of the most popular British institutions. Pantos are also a little peculiar as I was reminded when on family duty watching Snow White at the Bristol Hippodrome on Sunday afternoon. So here is my Beginners Guide to the Great British Panto
a) A panto is a musical comedy based on a traditional story: Aladdin, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty are typical. It is always performed during the Christmas holiday season but rarely has a Christmas theme.
b) The stories are familiar and easy for children to follow. Sleepy adults who find their eyes closing can easily pick up the plot when they wake up!
c) There are jokes only the adults will understand. Often these are very rude.
d) There is a villain or ‘baddie’, like the Wicked Queen. We boo the baddie when he or she is on stage.
f) The lead roles are played by TV stars and/or comedians. The bigger the production the bigger the stars. We had two actors from Britain’s most popular show, the BBC’s ‘East Enders’.
g) There are lots of songs young people know but ancient people like me don’t recognise. These songs must be easy to sing (like Yellow Submarine or We are Family) in our case.
h) The actors talk to the audience and make jokes about local places.
Pantos are not everyone’s cup of tea. The music is loud and the jokes are terrible. But judging by the faces of the people leaving the theatre most people have a good time.
Well done to Anita for spotting ‘All You Need is Love’ as last week’s Beatles song. Only one this week, too – and not too difficult, I hope.
institutions – traditions
peculiar strange, odd
family duty - A duty is an obligation, something people expect you to do. It is also used to describe when an official is working e.g. the policeman was on duty.
rude – pantos use a lot of what the French call double entendres. These are when an apparently innocent sentence phrase can have a second sexual meaning.
boo make a 'booing' sound to indicate disapproval
cup of tea (idiom) – your ‘cup of tea’ is what you normally like (e.g. 'Sci-Fi is not really my cup of tea').
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