Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without the magic of pantomime. A must-see for many families over the festive season, young and old will be spoilt for choice with shows taking place across the county this year.

Panto traditions

No pantomime is complete without slapstick comedy, audience participation, crazy costumes, a cast of fantastic characters (who may or may not be true to the original storyline!), and laughs galore. Pantomime is quite a theatrical experience!

Although traditionally held around Christmas time, nowadays there are often productions taking place well into the early part of the new year.

Panto history

Panto has been part of British Christmas culture for centuries. Many people believe pantomime can trace its roots back to Commedia dell’Arte’, the 16th-century Italian entertainment which featured Harlequin, Pierrot and Columbine.

Victorian introductions of elaborate scenery, audience participation, fairy tale characters and pantomime dames, helped to create the shows we still enjoy today.

You can read more about the history of pantomime in this article from the V&A Museum.

Pantos in East Sussex

This Christmas and new year, you can take your pick from the many professional and amateur productions being staged across East Sussex. Watch Beauty and the Beast or Cinderella on the coast, or travel inland to see The Three Musketeers, Robinson Crusoe and A Christmas Carol, among others.

Here’s our round up of some of the best East Sussex pantos this season:

Alice in Pantoland

The Meridan Centre, Peacehaven
1 Dec to 9 Dec 2023

Alice strays into the enchanted realm where panto characters go in the down season. Alice and her new friends must defeat evil Witch Whey and ensure good prevails.

A Christmas Carol

Hailsham Pavilion, Hailsham
3 Dec 2023

The Dicker Players bring us an adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Wonderful seasonal live entertainment for all the family! All proceeds to the Eastbourne and Hailsham Foodbank this Christmas.

Beauty and The Beast

Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne
8 Dec 2023 to 14 Jan 2024

Join the fabulous pantomime team once again for another magical tale complete with live music, sensational costumes, colourful sets and so much more.

The Three Musketeers

Crowborough Community Centre, Crowborough
8 Dec to 10 Dec 2023

All for one, and one for all! The classic French swashbuckling tale gets the Crowborough panto treatment, as the Crowborough Players return for their eleventh year at the Community Centre.


White Rock Theatre, Hastings
15 Dec to 31 Dec 2023

Cinderella is the hilarious family pantomime suitable for all ages, with tons of slapstick comedy and stunning musical numbers that you are guaranteed to be singing for days afterwards.

Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs

Royal Hippodrome Theatre, Eastbourne
11 Dec 2023 to 2 Jan 2024

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, don’t miss the fairest pantomime of them all! A glittering festive treat for all ages.

Horrible Histories: Horrible Christmas

De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill On Sea
22 Dec 2023

When Christmas comes under threat from a jolly man dressed in red, it’s up to one young boy to save the day – but can he save Christmas? Take a hair-raising adventure through the history of Christmas in the company of Charles Dickens, Oliver Cromwell, King Henry VIII and St Nicholas.

Goldilocks and the Three Bears – A Circus Adventure!

Rye Theatre, Rye College, Rye
23 Dec to 29 Dec 2023

That’s Entertainment Productions proudly present their brand new Family Christmas Show: Roll Up, Roll Up for the Greatest Christmas Show on Earth featuring Britain’s Got Talent star Pete Lambert!

Robinson Crusoe and the Pirates

Polegate Community Centre, Polegate
20 to 28 Jan 2024

Come and join Polegate Drama Group for a grand pantomime adventure.  A real pearl of a panto, packed full of swashbuckling action, damsels in distress, desert island cannibals and plenty of songs for you to sing along to.

Beauty and The Beast

Rotherfield Village Hall, Rotherfield
25 to 28 Jan 2024

Fantastic, family fun as the Rotherfield Players present their annual winter pantomime, Beauty and the Beast.

Robinson Crusoe: An Unforgettable Pantomime Adventure!

All Saints Centre, Lewes
4 Feb 2024

All Lewes Drama Collective members are thrilled to present a unique pantomime adaptation of the bestselling novel, Robinson Crusoe, originally written by Daniel Defoe and published in 1719.

And if panto isn’t your thing, there are lots more festive events taking place this month – read more in our What’s on article.

Photo by Rob Laughter on Unsplash