The national theatre of Scotland is pantomime.
actor/director Lewis Casson, speaking in the 1920’s
For those unfamiliar with the concept of pantomime here is the dictionary definition: “a kind of play performed at Christmas time characterized by farce, music, lavish sets, stock roles, and topical jokes”
Pantomime was, at one point, a short piece put on after the evening’s main performance, and consisted largely of acrobatic tricks and knock-about humour. The first known mention of pantomime in Glasgow was in 1751 with the presentation of Harlequin Pantomime or the Dutchman Bitt at Burrell’s Hall near the Cathedral. Aladdin was produced at the Theatre Royal in Queen Street in 1814, although it was described as a melodrama. By 1866 however the Theatre Royal, Dunlop Street billed Aladdin as the “gorgeous pantomime.” The poster for that show describes it as “a most Magnificently Magnumptious Processional Production, Profusely Produced and Peculiarly Pretty.” Towards the end of the nineteenth century, pantomime developed into the type of show we would still recognise as such today.
The most popular subjects for panto’s are ‘Cinderella’ followed by ‘Aladdin’, ‘Dick Whittington’, and ‘Snow White’
Other popular pantomime titles are ‘Jack and The Beanstalk’, ‘Babes In The Woods’ (normally combined with ‘Robin Hood’) and ‘Sleeping Beauty’.
This 2014/2015 Season marks 50 years since the first pantomime at the King’s Theatre, Glasgow (however this will only be the 47th pantomime to be staged at the theatre)
In 1964 audiences were treated to A wish for Jamie. Starring Kenneth McKellar, Johnny Beattie and Fay Lenore. These all-Scottish tartan-draped shows were the dream of Stewart Cruikshank, the company manager, with Freddie Carpenter as the producer. There were two other pantos in the series, A Love for Jamie and The World of Jamie.
In 2014/2015 ‘Peter Pan’ is the pantomime of choice. Peter Pan is a character created by Scottish novelist and playwright J. M. Barrie. A mischievous boy who can fly and never grows up, he spends his never-ending childhood having adventures on the small island of Neverland as the leader of his gang, the Lost Boys.
Whatever pantomime you see this year remember audience participation is a key part of the panto experience. So remember to boo and hiss the villain, warn the the hero of impending danger (“It’s behind you!”) , and outdo each other by singing along loudly.
For that extra Christmas present why not consider Pantomime in Scotland: a celebration of Scottish pantomime on film.