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Spring 2005


Commodore’s Bit
Annual Dinner
For Sale
Hawker SC
Hogs Back Brewery
Le Pré Valentin 1
Le Pre Valentin 2
Licensing Act
Mid Thames Trophy
Open Weekend
Prizes for 2004
Programme 1
Programme 2
Riverside Barn Concert
Rules Evening
Sailing Down Wind
Sailing Rules
Skittles Night
Start of Season Party
Working Party 2004
Working Party 2005

Pantomime - Relevant or an
Outmoded Blast from the Past ?

Okay! So Pantomime is aimed at children and that's when many of us got hooked. Pantomime is a direct link to our childhoods and perhaps to the happy memories of those times.

A visit to a pantomime may be a child's first experience of live theatre. If that experience is magical enough, it can leave a lasting impression and become a catalyst. The audience of the future, not just pantomime, but live theatre.

Have you ever wondered how panto came about, its history if you like. Pantomime, as we recognize it, has its origins in Italy and began life as stories, possibly historical, told through mime.

Today's plays draw their inspiration from a variety of sources and have gradually got more sophisticated in terms of costume, lighting and the use of 'celebrity' performers whom, it is believed, will ensure greater audience numbers.

People talk about 'traditional' pantomime but to remain popular this form of theatre has had to keep its eye firmly on modern trends and by weaving these into its format remains one of the most popular forms of entertainment in this country.

To be 'traditional' a panto must begin with a strong story line with all the important elements of good battling against evil and emerging triumphant.

'Tradition' says that the pantomime villain should be the first to enter from the dark side, stage left, followed by his adversary, the good fairy, from stage right. This echoes medieval times when entrances to heaven and hell were placed on these sides.

Song and dance is very important to panto and dates back to its use by entertainers who traveled through Italy to France. These actors improvised their way through a plot involving characters such as Harlequin and Columbine. Other characters were Columbine's over protective father Pantaloon and his servant Pulchinello, the clown.

Pulchinello has long since vanished from panto but lives on as 'Mr.Punch the anti-heroic puppet together with his wife Judy.

The most famous clown was Joseph Grimaldi who made his first appearance in 1800. The public clamored to see his performances at Salders Wells and Drury Lane and he became panto's first real star. Grimaldi also pioneered the art of cross dressing (i.e. the pantomime dame).

Often the Dame's costumes were used to comic effect by parodying the fashions of the day, in much the same way as the modern Dame does nowadays. The other element of 'traditional' pantomime is the role of the principal boy role, played by a girl.

By the middle of the nineteenth century the vogue for ladies to take on the heroic roles was beginning, and with the rise of Music Hall it became the rule. Quite simply, the Victorian male, living in a society where even the legs of the parlor piano were covered for modesty's sake, craved the vision of a well turned ankle, or shapely calf.

While women were corseted, crinolined or bustled on the street, artistic license allowed ladies upon the stage to wear costumes that revealed shapely legs in tights on condition that they played a male role.

Personally I think pantomimes still have great potential. Their time-honored stories and simple presentation is a refreshing counterpoint to the digital special effects world that we now live in.

They also invite us to participate in the performance (Oh no they don't! Oh yes they do!); and if you can still enter into the spirit of the show, there's nothing like it. That spirit links all generations and the proof is to watch the reaction of a pantomime audience. There's no cynicism just a collective childlike will to be temporarily transported to a 'feel good place'.

A group from Aquarius went to Richmond Theatre on the evening of 13 January to see Dick Whittington with John Inman. It had all the classic panto elements. Good vs. evil, pathos, comedy, loud music, chorus girls, a dame and some brilliantly designed and painted scenery.

The story had a few new twists including a galleon and a shipwreck in Morocco. Not sure what that had to do with Dick Whittington? But the underwater scene was great! … and of course an audience, more than ready to once again return to childhood for a couple of hours and just have good old fashioned fun!

Mike (He's behind you!) Baker