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I, An American, Saw My First Panto, And Here Are My Questions

Oh, yes, I do.

1. Why is it called a pantomime?

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Preface: I am American. I am an American who studied theatre at an American university, so to me pantomime is the wordless action, and there was 0% wordless action in the Hackney Empire's joyous (and very loud and very musical) Jack and the Beanstalk. I get the Roman theatre history aspect (I STUDIED THEATRE REMEMBER), but facts are facts and calling it a pantomime is just not an accurate depiction of what it actually is. Sorry.

2. Why is panto a Christmas thing?

3. Do you have to pay more for seats in the sweet-toss line of fire?

4. Doesn't shouting at the stage make it hard to hear what's actually going on?

5. Are panto performers superheroes who can't get distracted by flashing lights like other actors?

6. Also how do they hold a toothy grin for two+ hours?

7. Is there panto training in drama school?

8. Is bringing your own snacks an actual thing?

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Or was the woman behind me who dropped her Tesco sandwich under my chair and also WAS TALKING ON HER PHONE THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE PERFORMANCE, actually just the worst?

9. Would it have been weird for me, as a childless adult, to get a flashing light toy?

10. Does ANYONE actually go to the panto for the plot?

Flickr: salforduniversity / Creative Commons

Right, so if you can't hear over the shouts, can't see over the flashing light toys, and can't focus because you're trying to retrieve that one piece of candy that landed in the aisle near you, can I assume it's safe to say you're not there to find out if the weird winterised version of your favourite fairy tale turns out OK?

11. Aren't children's shows supposed to be quite short?

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Don't get me wrong. Jack and the Beanstalk was actually delightful, but its run-time was also almost three hours long. Is that normal? I don't know – but the last time I saw a show that long it was Hamlet, and lbh, Jack and the Beanstalk is no epic meditation on life, death, and family dysfunction (or maybe I missed something.)

12. Do you even think about pantos as children's shows?

13. How do crazy conservative parents not go off the rails about all the gender-bending?

14. Why do the characters say hi and bye every time they enter and leave the scene?

15. Are you for real about that song at the end?

16. How do you convince yourself to attend something where you KNOW might be called up on stage to do something ridiculous?

17. Is Shrek basically the film version of a panto?


Kind of rude twists on classic fairy tales and pop song parodies a plenty. Makes you think.

18. Don't the wacky audience participation bits of a panto conflict with your reserved British values?

I thought this country was all about limited interaction and no eye contact.

I thought I could trust you.

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