During the summer months pantomime season seems so far away but these colourful and spectacular shows are constantly being devised, written and put together throughout the whole year, some may even start as early as January! Auditions for pantomime performers start in the spring and many actors will be auditioning or performing in pantomime for their very first time. Lucky them!
If you are a seasoned pantomime actor you will most probably not need to read this article, because pantomime skills are learned, practiced and developed over a number of years. Each panto offers a new array of jokes, songs and panto sketches and no panto is ever the same. But for the new panto virgin, it’s a whole new ‘pandora’s box’ of performance skills waiting to be introduced.
Actor Hub Pantomime Hints and Tips!
What is Pantomime or Panto?
Visitors to the UK are always a bit confused about what a pantomime actually is. Some expect some kind of mime performance, a stage full of white faced characters dressed in black garb silently acting out a story to a captivated audience. In fact it’s the complete opposite! Pantomime is probably the most colourful, noisiest, rowdiest sort of theatre you can attend in Britain.
British pantomimes take familiar fairy tales and popular children’s stories like Aladdin, Cinderella, Snow White, Mother Goose, Dick Whittington and adds a bit of British vaudeville music hall, contemporary references and huge amounts of audience participation to create a raucous, noisy entertainment that’s fun for all the family. In a nut shell it’s ‘good versus evil’ stories, bright scenery, outrageous costumes, visual comedy, singing, dancing, and lots of audience participation.
Pantomimes are and will always remain popular. You wouldn’t expect 5 year olds to sit through ‘Hamlet’ or some 80 year olds to sit through a ‘One Direction’ concert but a panto audience will include people from all ages and backgrounds. It’s totally unique.
In addition to the innuendo and bawdy gags there is always a breathtaking ‘transformation’ scene which should always wow the audience. Most pantos have a moment when the set designers bring out their most magical special effects with twinkly lights, disappearing characters, clouds of smoke and other magical effects. Every story has it’s traditional transformation scene like Cinderella’s emergence in her ball gown with her coach and footmen or Aladdin’s discovery of the genie in the cave of glittering jewels.Pantomime has always been a regular source of employment for actors and performers every Christmas and New Year who are armed with a special set of performance skills to master the lively audience.
All too often newcomers to the colourful world of pantomime totally underestimate what they’re letting themselves in for. Some presume that the audition and even the pantomime will be a ‘breeze’ because it’s just singing and performing in front of a rowdy, jolly and festive family audience. Of all the aspects of theatre, pantomime is perhaps the most demanding, and some say the most unforgiving, when it comes to performance.
Nowadays you have to be an ‘all rounder’ when working in pantomime. You have to act, sing, improvise and dance numerous routines not to mention the essential comic timing and spontaneity. The number of companies using specialist dancers seem to be decreasing year by year as budgets become tighter and the need to utilise a company to maximum effect becomes ever stronger.
If you are interested in being in a pantomime, or get your first panto audition we recommend that you read ‘The Pantomime Book’ by Paul Harris. It’s a great introduction to any panto career and can offer you guidance and a professional insight into all the panto gags, routines, sketches and useful tricks of the trade.