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!!!"