The pantomime is a specialised musical-comedy production with its own long-standing traditions that is performed around Christmas time in countries such as the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and parts of Europe. Developing a pantomime can be a tough task if you're the writer, since you must combine much-loved traditions and themes with new ideas in a way that satisfies an audience who will have expectations of the genre.
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Few pantomimes completely remove the long-lasting traditions that make this genre what it is, and with good reason: pantomime traditions are easily recognised by the audience and are usually welcomed. You should consider including plenty of audience participation moments; pantomime audiences like to get involved and enjoy shouting warnings and advice to characters, as well as cheering the good guys or hissing at antagonists. A pantomime dame is always a favourite; this is an overdressed, bawdy character usually played by a man. The dame adds humour, especially if played by a big man in a dress, and can also be used to act as a kind of chorus in the narrative.
Inspirations for Stories
Many pantomimes take their central plots from folklore and fairy tales. The useful thing about these stories is that they provide a strong, basic plot line for you to follow and are easy to adapt to a pantomime structure; audiences will recognise them, too. Tales such as "Aladdin" and "Cinderella" are classic pantomime fodder, while "Little Red Riding Hood" and "Robin Hood" are two other favourites ripe for adaptation. Other inspirations for pantomime stories might be found in the worlds of mythical fantasy, such as Greek myths, and science fiction.
Much of a pantomime's humour is quite bawdy, with many jokes falling under the category of innuendo, giving adult audience members something to enjoy. As pantomimes should be suitable for kids too, you'll need to include a spot of slapstick comedy, while a parody of a well-known TV series or movie works well. An example could be a parody of the bullet-time sequence from "The Matrix."
Many pantomimes incorporate music into the action and this usually means numbers sung by the cast. These songs aren't usually played straight; they're designed to get laughs and add to the overall fun of the piece. You might utilise a song to tell some of the story instead of using a narrator, while an entertaining effect can be created by taking an existing, well-known pop song and altering the words to suit your pantomime.
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