The origins of Pantomime, often referred to as “panto,” are steeped in history.
Its roots are in ancient Greek and Roman theatre, where actors used exaggerated gestures and masks to tell stories. However, the modern British panto we know today began to take shape in the 16th century when the Italian form of “commedia dell’arte” made its way to England. This theatre style relied heavily on improvisation and stock characters, many of whom would become the familiar figures of British pantomime.
By the 18th century, pantomimes had firmly established themselves as a popular Christmas tradition in Britain. They featured well-known characters like Harlequin, Columbine, and the clown, with a generous helping of song and dance. Pantomimes often incorporated topical and satirical elements, making them more than just a children’s show.
The Victorian era saw a golden age for pantomime in the UK. Pantomime scripts became increasingly complex, featuring elaborate sets, special effects, and clever wordplay.
Today, pantomime remains a vital part of British Christmas tradition. Productions take place in theatres all over the UK, with famous actors and comedians often taking on key roles. While the core elements of pantomime have remained remarkably consistent—stock characters, cross-dressing, audience participation—they have also evolved to include contemporary humour and cultural references.
The origins of “Jack and the Beanstalk” can be traced back to folktales and legends. One of the earliest written versions of this story can be found in Joseph Jacobs’ collection of English fairy tales, published in the late 19th century. However, the tale likely existed in oral tradition long before it was documented.
This Christmas, we are delighted to have a local professional company Bowtie Productions present the fun filled family pantomime Jack And The Beanstalk this festive season at the Blakehay Theatre. Tickets can be found at https://blakehaytheatre.co.uk/welcome-to-our-calendar-of-events/shows-events/ or by calling Weston Museum 01934 621028