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The History of Pantomime

Pantomime or 'panto' is a uniquely British form of entertainment. An essential part of the traditional British Christmas season. Panto is performed throughout the UK in scores of large and small theaters by professional, semi-professional, and amateur drama groups. Annually around Christmas, hundreds of thousands of children and adults attend these popular plays. The traditional British Christmas Panto has its roots in the crude comedies of ancient Greece, the silent masked plays of Rome,  medieval English morality plays and the 19th century French mimed Pierrot plays. It is essentially a morality play based upon a children's fairy story (e.g. Cinderella) demonstrating the triumph of good over evil and using all the elements of theatre to illustrate the point.

More recent productions have deviated from the traditional fairy story to reflect increasing sophistication, but the essence remains the same.
To encourage the audience the moral message is concealed within an all-encompassing comic script, written to appeal to the child in all of us, with the issues and moral choices clearly defined. A unique aspect of panto is its form of audience participation.

Audience members are encouraged to boo-and-hiss 'baddies', warn the 'goodies' of impending danger ("It's behind you!") and talk back to the actors. (When an evildoer says "Oh, no he won't!" the entire audience knows to yell back in unison "Oh, yes he will!") Actors toss sweets and confetti from the stage, lunge into the audience for 'volunteers', and start conversations with individual audience members. The audience is expected to participate - various characters will seek the audience's help, asking questions or claiming inability to sing or shout loud enough on their own. The wholehearted and loud responce of the audience is vital - the louder the better!


To accomodate schools, IDEA sends out 'school packages' with more information about the panto to be used by teachers. With that information pack students can be taught not only about the contents of the panto but also about panto etiquette. And these school packages are well received, as shown by this testimonial of one of the teachers (feb 2014):

"I especially want to thank you for the detailed school packs that you sent through to us. (...) Also, sending a section of the script was brilliant because I actually had some of our students acting out the parts in class (with no time to prepare!) so that they recognised alot on the evening. Please do that again next year if you can!!!"



  • International Drama Group for English Speaking Associates

    I.D.E.A. logo

    I.D.E.A. was formed initially in 1992 as a means to allow English speaking people in the area of Dordrecht to participate in the production and performance of amateur theatricals. The major form of production was and still is the annual Christmas panto - a form which is unknown outside the UK. Over the years we have produced pantos (written by our own members) virtually every year, much to the enjoyment of the English resident population and to the delight of many Dutch people, who join in wholeheartedly.