A Christmas Pantomime

Pantomime is a curiously English form of theatrical performance. The word pantomime has a Greek original referring to a popular form of entertainment, but it came to England in the eighteenth century by way of the characters in the Commedia dell’arte. However, it’s somehow difficult to imagine it as anything other than quintessentially English. An English pantomime is a hearty helping of earthy, physical humour with a sprinkling of coarseness.

These shots are from the dress rehearsal of a pantomime called Jack and the Beanstalk, where the principal boy is a played by a girl and the Dame (Jack’s mother) is played by a man. Pantomimes usually contain a lot of slapstick comedy, an animal (in this case a cow) played by actors in a costume, a bit of innuendo, topical references, puns and jokes so old weak they wouldn’t make the cut as cracker mottoes, and of course audience participation.

Here’s the Dame with her two sons, Simple Simon and Jack.

The Dame with Simple Simon and Jack

and the King and the Dame:

The King and the Dame

Jack and the Princess:


Jack’s family is so hard up that the Debt Collectors put his family’s house up for sale. Needless to say the Debt Collectors are in to physical comedy in a big way…

Debt Collectors

… as are most of the other characters in fact. Here there’s a classic cake baking scene which starts to get out of hand:

Cake making scene

There’s also a Rat Catcher and a wicked Witch in league with the Giant:

Rat Catcher & wicked Witch

The Rat Catcher tries to involve the Debt Collectors in kidnapping the Princess:

Rat Catcher & Debt Collectors

Rat Catcher & Debt Collectors

The Princess is carried off by the Rat Catcher, put under the Giant’s spell and guarded by rats:

Princess under the Giant's spell

…until she is rescued by Jack and the King:

The Princess rescued by Jack & the King

The Dame

The villagers' delight

The Rat Catcher & the wicked Witch


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