Pantomime (panto, informally, and not to be confused with mime) is a form of musical comedy for families, performed during the Christmas holiday season.
It has a long tradition of using young female actors for the role of the principal young man, and though that isn’t always the case, the young Princess Elizabeth was a panto protagonist in WWII, wearing men’s attire complete with tights.
Her sister, Princess Margaret, was the female love interest.
Rivercity Players will be maintaining pantomime tradition when they bring their second Christmas pantomime to the Tidemark Theatre Dec. 28-30 with a matinee on Dec. 31. Remember last year’s first Rivercity pantomime Mother Goose? Well, they’re back with the always-popular panto version of Aladdin.
Panto has many conventions, some of which have changed over the years, and certainly none are obligatory: the leading male juvenile character – traditionally played by a young woman, though her female charms remain evident – and an older woman, known as the pantomime dame (and often the hero’s mother), – usually played by a man in drag, and has a great deal of interaction with the audience.
The slapstick comedy comes with much risque double entendre, where innuendo is brought forth in perfectly innocent phrases. This is, in theory, over the heads of children in the audience and for the entertainment of the adults.
Meanwhile, audience participation is expected and encouraged. Calls of “Look behind you!” and “Oh, yes it is!” and “Oh, no it isn’t!” are shouted from the audience, plus they’re encouraged to “Boo!” and cheer when shown raised placards at the foot of the stage. As well, the poor victims (such as the rejected dame, who’s usually enamoured with a prince or well-to-do villain) receive “Awwwwwww”s from the audience.
A delicate item which the audience might not be aware of is the importance of having the good fairy enter from stage right (from the audience’s point of view this is on the left) and the villain enter from stage left (right, from the point of view of the audience).
This convention goes back to medieval mystery plays, where the right side of the stage symbolized heaven and the left side symbolized hell.
So, who will Aladdin be? Find out at the Tidemark Theatre Dec. 28-30 at 7:30 p.m. or Dec. 31 at the 2 p.m. matinee.
Tickets are now on sale at the Tidemark box office, or online at tidemarktheatre.com, or by phoning 250-287-PINK. And they’re a great Christmas gift.
So, make Rivercity Players Christmas pantomime part of your holiday tradition.