It’s that time of year again (oh yes, it is) for the family favourite Christmas pantomime. A staple in many family calendars, panto-goers are in for a treat this festive season with a host of shows taking to the stage across the county.
While panto might look slightly different this year in terms of COVID-19 measures, with audiences required to wear masks and, in many venues, show proof of negative COVID tests, some things remain exactly the same. That is, all our favourite quintessentially panto ‘quirks’ that make this tradition what it is.
So, while remaining COVID compliant and staying safe, you can still expect all the usual audience participation and silly catchphrases you know and love this panto season. Here are just some of our favourite traditions to look out for at the panto, see if you can spot them while attending a show!
From the obvious booing and hissing at the villain, to bellowing the classic “oh no it isn’t / oh yes it is”, audience participation is a huge element of the beloved panto. This continues throughout the whole performance, with many shows including a singalong right before the final scene. Song sheets are held up and everyone in the auditorium is encouraged to warm up their vocal chords with a traditional song, often Christmas themed. The audience is not a place for shrinking violets, so be ready to get involved and get stuck in!
Whether it’s a horse, cow, dragon, or cat, you can always guarantee an animal playing a vital role in panto. Often, larger animals such as cows and horses are played by two actors in a mascot-style costume, forming the head and the backside. This, as you can imagine, makes for some very amusing jokes and slapstick scenes. Which leads us on to the next point…
Slapstick comedy is part and parcel of a traditional panto, and the sky is the limit for the ‘silliness’ that takes place. From the classic custard-pie-in-face scenario to somebody being hit around the head, we suggest leaving your maturity at the door and embracing the slapstick fun.
Some other traditions to look out for include multiple (and exceedingly extravagant) costume changes for the vivacious Dame, plenty of double entendre and adult humour, a particularly ghastly villain, sweets thrown into the audience, incredible set changes and scenery, excessive thigh slapping, and a messy ‘slosh’ scene. There really is something for everyone!
Promising a form of nostalgic escapism at Christmas, you can expect nothing short of a fantastic day out at the pantomime. Oh yes you can!
East Sussex pantos
Here’s our guide to the best pantos in East Sussex this festive season…
Sleeping Beauty – Eastbourne
Devonshire Park Theatre, Compton Street, Eastbourne
10th Dec 2021 to 9th Jan 2022
Sleeping Beauty | Eastbourne Theatres
Cinderella – Eastbourne
Royal Hippodrome Theatre, 108-112 Seaside Road, Eastbourne
13th Dec 2021 to 2nd Jan 2022
Cinderella – Royal Hippodrome Theatre
Robin Hood – Hastings
White Rock Theatre, White Rock, Hastings
15th Dec 2021 to 31st Dec 2021
Robin Hood | Hastings Pantomime 2021 (whiterocktheatre.org.uk)
Beauty and The Beast – Hailsham
Hailsham Pavilion, George St, Hailsham
19th Jan 2022 to 23rd Jan 2022
Hailsham Theatres – Beauty and the Beast – Hailsham Pavilion
Aladdin – Uckfield
Civic Centre, Bellfarm Ln, Uckfield
17th Dec 2021 and 18 Dec 2021
Aladdin Pantomime : Civic Centre Uckfield
Beauty and The Beast – Bexhill
De La Warr Pavillion, Bexhill
12 Dec 2021
Beauty and the Beast – DLWP, The De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill, East Sussex
One for the big kids…
Pete’s Pants (A Very Adult Panto!) – Eastbourne
Grove Theatre, Eastbourne Library, Eastbourne
17 Dec 2021 and 18 Dec 2021
Pete’s Pants | The Grove Theatre (groveeastbourne.com)
Don’t forget to check what COVID measures and guidelines are in place before attending your panto of choice.