A round-up of this year's festive performances
- 21 November 2011
- by Sheryl Simms
Christmas would not be Christmas in the UK without the traditional British pantomime. Oh yes it would! Oh no it wouldn't! This weird and wonderful tradition where animals talk, girls act as boys and men act as women, is the ultimate family entertainment at this time of year and can be traced back to 16th century, Italy, where wandering actors performed a travelling theatre. The focus was more on physical acting, slapstick, comedy and funny costumes, a style which was adopted by the Punch and Judy shows and Victorian Music Halls.
Today's pantomimes mainly take inspiration from classic children's fairy tales and whatever the story, you can always rest assured that certain characters will prevail; a pantomime dame (played by a man), a principal boy (played by a woman), an evil character and a talking animal. There's one other essential ingredient which no self-respecting panto would be without... a headlining celebrity. Yes, top of the bill is usually a soap star, a reality star, comedian, TV presenter or retired sportsperson. Even Hollywood, in the form of Pamela Anderson, David Hasselhoff or Britt Ekland, has been seduced by this great British tradition.
The panto season generally runs from 9December to 15 January. Here's a mini guide to pantos in London this Christmas:
Dick Whittington: Starring Sam Attwater (EastEnders and winner of Dancing on Ice) and Dame Edna Everage, at the New Wimbledon Theatre.
Peter Pan: Starring Steve McFadden (EastEnders) and Harry Derbridge (The Only Way Is Essex), at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking.
Cinderella: Starring Jenny Eclair (Loose Women) and Gary Willmot (veteran of musical theatre), at the Richmond Theatre.
Aladin: Starring Gareth Gates (Popstars the Rivals), Russel Grant (Strictly Come Dancing), Anita Dobson (EastEnders and Strictly Come Dancing) and Camilla Dallerup (Strictly ComeDancing), at the Milton Keynes Theatre.