Most Pantomimes are loosely based around a fairy story, nursery rhyme
or children’s book. Some of the most popular include Cinderella,
Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and Peter Pan. Common to all are certain
characters and traditional audience responses that I’m going to give a
short quick-start guide to here.
This character is the most rude, silly and outrageous of them all –
traditionally played by a man. There is never any doubt about this –
Panto Dames are no drag queens! The will be larger than life, have a
store of wise-cracks, double-entendre, huge dresses, wigs false
eyelashes and more makeup than you seen in the whole of the cosmetics
section of Superdrug in Southside! Despite all this, they’re goodies,
and invite the audience to respond to catchphrases and jokes, and will
keep on encouraging until they get the enthusiastic response they
want. When the Dame enters, you cheer, whoop, clap, and make good
The baddie can be male or female, depending on the story, and as you
might guess, is the bad guy. When they enter (usually accompanied by
‘baddie’ music and one or two hopeless sidekicks) the audience need to
shout “boo!” as loudly as they can.
Often the title role, this is played by a pretty young woman. Scripts
vary, and sometimes she can be a bit wet, but is often portrayed as
quite a clever, feisty, young thing, but always with a kind heart.
Also played by a young woman, usually with a lot of leg on display!
This encourages the practice of ‘thigh-slapping’, something that Panto
is famous for. The hero is clever and brave, will fall in love with
the heroine at some point, and together they’ll defeat the baddies and
true love will prevail.
The Good Fairy
A fairy or spirit that observes the hero and heroine’s plight and
helps them out. Usually a gentle and kind character, full of courage,
but often with rather poor jokes!
Assorted other characters include the stupid goodie, the stupid
baddie, a talking animal (cat, mouse, horse, cow), someone who’s
hopelessly in love with the heroine, the hero’s friend and an older
Other than cheering the Dame and booing the Baddie, there are plenty
more opportunities to make a noise, For example:
Character calls “Oh yes it is!”
Audience respond “Oh no it isn’t!”
Repeated three times, no more, and can be adapted or reversed
according to the situation.
If there’s some sort of activity going on behind a character that they
stupidly can’t see or hear, then yell “it’s behind you!”
At some point, the goodies will often require the help of the
audience, sometimes everyone doing some sort of ridiculous action,
sometimes yelling or singing a magical spell. Whatever it happens to
be, you must join in or everything will end up really, really badly.
It’s all down to you.
Sometimes, one or two very special audience members are called upon to
go on stage and help out the goodies. This is a very important role
and if called on you have to do what is asked so that the audience can
cheer a really cute child, or have lots of fun at the expense of a
hapless adult. Either way, it’s a great honour to be picked.