'It's panto time' is a magical phrase which conjures up feelings of a typically English Christmas. Cold and frosty mornings, carol singing and that time of year everyone dreads for fear of overindulgence and the inevitable family rows. One aspect is still, thankfully, akin to a sacred institution. Pantomime. And it's still going strong!

Thankfully many people still take their children, grandchildren, or just themselves if they can find no young excuse, to a peculiar theatrical performance which is all so often - in these parlous theatrical times -  the financial banker and sure fire money making success of a theatre's year.

Like Cricket, another venerated English institution, pantomime defies an easy and logical description. Why do men dress up as women and women with seemingly endless legs slap their thighs and pretend to be men - usually without the slightest glimmer of innuendo?

Vast tomes have been written on the history of pantomime. It draws its origins from aspects of Commedia dell'arte, French ballets-pantomimes - which were themselves descended from a distant Roman tradition based on a dumb show performed by a single masked dancer called Pantomimus - and the 18
th century Harlequinade. It was to be transformed in the early 19th century by the great clown Grimaldi who established many of its now established conventions.

The Wizard of Oz, December 2003It is traditionally a Christmas seasonal entertainment for children with sketchy plots based loosely on traditional fairy tales. Much embellishment with music, dancing and comedy occurs - often in a style and with routines that have been handed down over the years by generations of performers.

In the late 19th century it provided an excuse for female Music Hall stars to titillate a morally repressed audience by showing off their legs as well as their other talents. As Variety progressively overtook Music Hall so the stars of the day carried on the starring mantle in pantomime needing the flimsiest of excuses to show of their special talents. - It was not unknown for a Robinson Crusoe to be washed ashore on a desert island after a fateful shipwreck to utter the immortal words: "Here I am all alone, I will play my xylophone."

The stories of Aladdin, Jack & The Beanstalk, Dick Whittington, Cinderella, Mother Goose, Robinson Crusoe, Red Riding Hood and the rest continue to enthral and more often than not provide the very young with a first, enduring experience of live theatre.

Would that it may continue with quality, fun, clean shows which have no deep message to convey other than that of seasonal happiness hugely enhanced by the infectious laughter of children.

More information about Current Hiss & Boo pantomimes


For more information contact:
Ian Liston, The Hiss & Boo Company
1 Nyes Hill, Wineham Lane, Bolney, West Sussex, RH17 5SD
Tel : +44 (0)1444 881707 / Fax : +44 (0)1444 882057
Email :