What are the essential ingredients for a perfect panto?
Firstly, it must have a simple plot with a beginning a middle and an end. Many professional productions employing star names, bend this rule to get in as many references to the stars ‘real job’ as possible. Star names are obviously what puts bums on seats, but constant references to their ‘day job’ will probably amuse the adults in the audience more so than the children. Nobody should ever underestimate a child’s potential to follow a storyline.
There should almost always be a love interest. However, this must be brought up to date so that female characters never come across as submissive and feeble. Rather, they should be confident feisty and modern. Believable goodies and baddies for audiences to boo and cheer is another must. Plenty of up-tempo musical numbers throughout and an audience participation song, sometimes known as the ‘community’ song. Most people, especially children will expect a slapstick scene somewhere in the proceedings. Any show that omits this well-loved tradition, does so at their peril.
To sum it up. Panto must have simple good versus evil stories, a love interest, bright scenery, outrageous costumes, visual comedy, up-tempo music and plenty of audience participation.
What are the most popular panto stories?
Like most forms of entertainment, pantomime stories wax and wane in popularity. Rewind a few decades and the most popular titles were The Babes In The Wood, Mother Goose, Goody Two Shoes, Sleeping Beauty, Ali Baba and Robinson Crusoe. Nowadays the top titles – in no particular order – are Cinderella, Aladdin, Snow White, Dick Whittington, Jack And The Beanstalk and Peter Pan. These are the ones that most professional productions tend to stick to at present. Although amateur companies are happy to try something that little bit different, such as Rapunzel, The Grinch and Alice In Wonderland. And are often willingly to try completely original stories, such as Pirates Of The Panto and Bunfight At The OK Corral.
What do today’s audiences want from a pantomime script?
What would have entertained audiences a decade ago, will most likely appear outdated to today’s audiences. The older generation might enjoy seeing something familiar, that they can identify with. But the younger audience members are probably more excited at the prospect of seeing a Rapunzel panto, than a Snow White one. But whatever the choice, panto will still appeal across the generations. Whilst all other forms of entertainment seem to have a limited lifespan; panto with its many timeless traditions has continued to remain popular by constantly transforming itself. Forever finding ways to incorporate contemporary ideas and conventions and engage with a modern audience, whilst still embracing the wonderful panto traditions that we all know and love.
So, what do modern pantomime audiences really want? According to Dennis Willis at Limelight Scripts; customers are looking for something modern, yet traditional. A contradiction in terms, perhaps? Not really, if you think about it. All they’re asking for, are traditional pantomimes brought right-up-to-date. And modern stories, that still adhere to the well-loved traditions of British Pantomime.
Everybody loves the traditional old pantomime routines, that have served panto so well for so long. But ways must be found to re-invent them in a way that appeals to the next generation, without alienating the older generation. As a pantomime script writer, Dennis sticks to the principal, ‘if it’s not funny or doesn’t help with the plot…cut it’. You can view his pantomimes here at http://www.limelightscripts.co.uk.