London Pantos, London pantomimes

New to London Pantos? We've Got Your 2023 Guide

New to London Pantos? We've Got Your 2023 Guide

by Lara McLain, Contributing Writer

If you're new to the enchanting world of London pantos, allow me to introduce you to them in this brief, but comprehensive guide.

What Is a Panto?

You may be wondering, what is a panto? Well, pantos, or pantomimes, are lively and interactive musical comedies, typically based on popular children's stories or fairy tales. They dominate the stage during the Christmas season, serving as fun, festive entertainment for the whole family. 

Pantos will often include slapstick comedy, but you can also expect songs with humorous lyrics. Some pantomimes feature original music, although many pantos include popular songs with re-written lyrics. Audience participation is usually expected, so you should anticipate singing along. 

While pantos are family-friendly, they do often include innuendos and double entendres. Those innuendos and double entendre are meant to entertain the adults in the audience, and it is unlikely that children will understand them. So, there's something for everybody in a panto.

London pantomime

The Characters

The characters in pantos vary, but two roles are standard: the principal boy and the pantomime dame. You can expect these characters to feature in whichever panto you choose to see. 

Christmas coffees, spillinthebeans.com

The principal boy, as his name suggests, is the main male character in a pantomime. He is traditionally played by a young woman wearing men's clothing, and he often has a romantic interest, referred to as the principal girl.

The pantomime dame is an older female character, often the mother of the principal boy. She is usually played by a man in drag and portrayed in a camp manner. 

Audience Participation

Audience participation is central to the pantomime format. So, if musicals make you want to sing along, you've got to go see a panto. As I said, many pantos feature familiar tunes with rewritten lyrics, so it's pretty easy to join in and sing along with the cast. 

Pantos will include other forms of audience participation. You may be encouraged to repeat phrases, boo certain characters, and express sympathy for other characters. Sometimes, children in the audience are even invited to join the cast on stage!

gifts for theater lovers, gifts for music lovers

Fun for the Whole Family

While pantos are entertaining for people of all ages, they're a particularly fun experience for children. They typically include innuendos and topical jokes that children won't understand. However, they're still meant to include and amuse younger audiences. 

Pantomimes are colorful and bright, full of eye-catching costumes and outrageous characters. A panto cast will often specifically choose children from the audience to invite on stage and sing along. And, considering that most pantos are based on classic children's stories and fairy tales, the storylines are meant to be familiar to children.

Must-See Pantos

So, now that you know what a pantomime is, you may be wondering which London pantos you should see. I have a few suggestions, and I'll let you know where you can see them. 

Peter Pan

This holiday season, The London Palladium is putting on a production of Peter Pan. Peter Pan is a staple of the Christmas pantomime schedule, and it is sure to delight audiences. This year,  Captain Hook is played by the one and only Jennifer Saunders, so it is bound to be heaps of fun. 

A Christmas Carol

This year, The Old Vic is presenting the classic A Christmas Carol. Christmas is incomplete without A Christmas Carol, and this pantomime version starring Christopher Eccleston should be delightful. I would grab tickets quickly, they are selling out fast!

Jack and the Beanstalk

You'll find that Jack and the Beanstalk is another classic, playing this year at Theatre Royal East Stratford. While Jack and the Beanstalk is a well-known story, this production has a twist. According to the theatre, this version will feature belches and farts, so it's bound to be uproariously fun. 

Dick Whittington

Finally, I suggest you go see Dick Whittington, a pantomime classic. This show is sure to be action-packed and hilarious, featuring the brilliant Paul Merton. So, if you want to see a really outstanding panto, this is the one to see. 

theater lovers gifts, OTL gifts, tees for theater lovers, hoodies for theater lovers

Free Shows Beyond Pantomimes

I can't recommend pantos enough if you're looking to get into the Christmas spirit. These shows are magical and family-friendly, and they're sure to make you laugh out loud. 

If you enjoy theatre, you don't have to limit yourself to Christmas shows. With OTL Seat Fillers, you can access free pairs of tickets and private invitations this holiday season and beyond - in London and the US!

About the Author

Lara McLain

Lara McLain is a recent sociology graduate from Sorbonne Universit√©. She aspires to work in journalism and the public relations field. While she enjoys writing about entertainment, she also has experience in investigative reporting.