What makes a great Pantomime?


It’s nearly panto season – oh yes it is!

We all love a good pantomime and I usually end up seeing so many each year from local groups to professional theatre productions. So what makes a good panto?

There are a few requirements for a good pantomime: a happy, singing and dancing company, a colourful stage set and costumes plus familiar music and topical references. Of course, a good panto has lots of laughs for all the family but let’s face it a panto isn’t a panto without its star  –  The Dame!

Gone are the days of the Principal Boy in a tunic and thigh boots but fortunately, we still have the Dame. There are many different types of Dame, examples such as the very feminine dame which stems back to the drag style of Danny La Rue or John Inman or the butch dame following the lead of Les Dawson. But every dame is different some are even grotesquely over the top with heavy make-up while others are clearly just a man in a dress!

“a good pantomime gets brings new generations into the theatre to see live performances”

Playing the dame is not just about the costume and make-up,  most importantly it’s the ability to entertain an audience full of children aged between 5 and 95 with great jokes and slapstick, laced with innuendos for the grown-ups.  It takes a special skill to be able to improvise on the spot and to deal with rowdy (or scared) children and come up with funny quips and comebacks.

I always love some traditional slapstick, there is nothing most children like more than seeing someone get a pie in the face it’s a sure fire way for side-splitting laughs and belly aches. Along with this audience interaction is vital – the cheering, the shouting “He’s behind you”, “oh not it’s not”  – all these are a must in any panto and we all love it.

The music is of great importance too. The audience wants to hear songs they recognise, some they can hum along to and something popular or relevant at the time.  A good chorus or company can bring these songs to life.  Popular choices include a Disney melody or two, a top 10 hit and a great oldie from the 50’s or 60’s – something for the kids, mum and dad and the grandparents.

Topical or local references and jokes are always appreciated – whether it be a poke at politics or chuckle at celebrities this can be panto gold!  With so much in the news these days it’s hard to what to choose but remember it’s always got to be a family show!

So choose your pantomime wisely – look at what other groups locally are doing – I have often ended up being faced with choosing from 2 or 3 Aladdin’s in the same season when local groups all do the same pantomime, which then makes it hard to decide which one to see.

But in my opinion, most importantly, a good pantomime brings new generations into the theatre to see live performances – No CGI or computer games, just good honest fun and entertainment and it allows families to share these experiences together.


Why not send us details of your pantomime this year and we can add it to our What’s On Page.



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