Pantomime Season   1 comment

English: Harlequin and Columbine from the mime...

English: Harlequin and Columbine from the mime theater at Tivoli, Denmark. Dansk: Harlekin og Columbine i pantomimeteatret i Tivoli. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Boxing Day and the days following often see the start of the pantomime season in Britain, although the 20th century shows presented in the professional theatres are often little more than musical reviews paying lip-service to the stories advertised in their titles. Even after the growth of the ‘sophisticated’ adult pantomimes of the English theatre, based on popular fairy tales like Cinderella, Puss-in-Boots and Dick Whittington, some respect was paid to the real pantomime of the Italian Commedia dell’Arte by adding an impromptu Harlequinade after the main presentation. This little comedy with Harlequin, Columbine, Pantaloon the clown, and so on, using numerous swing-doors and trap-doors, was still a part of English pantomime well into the 1920s. With the revival of pantomime in the 1970s, some companies have reintegrated these elements in the main pantomime, for young audiences, involving them through interactive participation. However, health and safety inspectors have made this more difficult, banning the throwing of boiled sweets into the audience, etc., perhaps with some justification. Playing ‘Five Wits’ in a performance of ‘Everyman’ in the 1980s, I was reprimanded for throwing a bread roll into the audience, accidentally hitting the Chairman of Governor’s wife!

Weston Mummers
Weston Mummers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another form of theatrical presentation with an even older ancestry, often seen at Christmas time, is the presentation of the Mummers’ Play, probably as popular today in some places as ever, following the folk revival and the enduring popularity of Morris (‘Moorish’) Dancing since the 1960s. The words of the play are rarely written down, as it is meant to be open to interpretation and improvisation. Traditionally, the players are ordinary country folk, getting together to rehearse and then, at Christmas, presenting an ancient story evoking the England of the Crusades and perhaps stirring even more distant memories of the Slain God of the Winter Solstice, yet not so dead as to be able to live again with the coming lengthening days. The principal characters are Father Christmas, Turkey Snipe (no connection with the bird!), Quack Doctor, Robin Hood and so on. Aside from these common personae, there are as many versions as there are companies that present the plays, often accompanied by a programme of Morris Dancing.

This year, 2015, we are keeping up this theatrical tradition by going to see Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol at the Katona Theatre in Kecskemét, Hungary. A familiar piece in any language!

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One response to “Pantomime Season

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  1. Reblogged this on hungarywolf.

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