What really is a pantomime?
I'm often sitting in the wee small hours planning out the scenario and characters for a new pantomime - as you do - and wondering if a checklist would be useful to determine necessary criteria to be met in order for a stage show to be accepted into the genre known as British Pantomime.
(Sometimes sleep would be useful too- but sometimes elusive!)
We probably all think we know what goes to making a pantomime but do we?
Can a stage show really be called a pantomime if certain traditions are not met? How many of the historical traditions need to be in a show for it to claim to be a pantomime?
As it was obvious that sleep was going to elude me (again!) I started thinking about the Wizard of Oz and how when written as a pantomime there isn't usually a 'Dame' character, that wonderful portrayal of a female characters by a male actor with excessive make up, elaborate wig and creatively crazy costumes!
I know that some productions do have a Dame playing as Aunty Em but of course she is never to be found in the Land of Oz and thus precluded from most of the story. The character of Aunty Em and the Good Witch can be doubled up by the same actor in pantomime but I'm not sure that having the Dame as an immortal is a good idea- but that could be a whole new question!
Does every Panto' have to have a Dame and similarly does every Panto' have to have a principal boy played as is traditional by a girl? (Something that seems to be less prevalent particularly in professional pantomimes)
So if a script doesn't have a Dame or Principal boy is it a true pantomime?
Maybe it's enough for example for the script to have a traditional ghost joke or plenty of slapstick routines and audience participation or a good and bad witch firing barbed comments across the stage to each other.
The British tradition of pantomime may be more of a collective experience where actors regularly break through that fourth wall and involve the audience rather than a selection from historical traditions.
It is certainly open for discussion but I suppose as long as all age groups can share a fun experience and leave the theatre laughing and singing then in the end - does it really matter?