Panto Day 2018
Friday 14th December

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Panto Advice
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Acting in Pantomime – A Director’s View

Approaches to Roles

Approach to Role #1
What I look for in a panto performer first and foremost is a love for the genre. Technique can be learnt at drama school or on the job, but a love for the style, history and traditions cannot. At auditions and in the rehearsal room I enjoy working with people who are passionate about pantomime. So I always suggest getting to know the genre – not only how it works today, but its background and in particular where the routines and traditions originate. For those starting out in the business I suggest seeing as many pantos as possible including commercial (eg FFE, QDOS, Imagine) and home grown “subsidised” ones (eg Nottingham Playhouse, York Theatre Royal). Also start by reading Paul Harris’s brilliant ‘The Pantomime Book’ which has a wonderful collection of routines which used to be passed down by the oral tradition on the rehearsal room floor from performer to performer and are now in print. Also, take a peek at Peter Lathan’s colourful ‘It’s Behind You’ which explores the history of pantomime in readable detail. This is just the start…

Approach to Role #2
Linked to the above is that of honing your skills! Pantomime is often seen as a second cousin to some forms of theatre and seen as ‘easy to do’; but those who perform in panto only make it look easy! It takes technique, energy and skill to undertake even the simplest of comedy routines or deliver a gag with precision. Do some courses in slapstick or verbal comedy if you need to. You’ll also need to keep fit and healthy- long rehearsals and up to three shows per day which contain singing, dancing, slosh routines and tightly crafted comedy scenes soon takes its toll if you are out of condition!

Approach to Role #3
Know what ‘role’ best suits you as a performer. When I first started directing panto I used to be fascinated by the conversations around tables – “what stock character are you?” older performers asked the younger ones. Are you a comic, a Dame, an Ugly, an immortal? Where do your skills lie? Actresses often talk about the year they moved from Principal Boy status into Wicked Queen or Fairy Godmothers. Know what parts you can play now and have an eye on where you will graduate to next- and then do so when the time is right!

Common Mistakes

Common Mistake #1
The most common mistake a panto baddie can make starting out is to battle with the audience and encourage them to “boo” beyond necessary. This can often mean the scene can never get started and the kids and not the actor controls the action! The performer must be in control of everything, even the audiences reactions.

Common Mistake #2
Is when some of the characters who shouldn’t speak to the audience decide to. Don’t get temped if you are a character that carries the story to start to break the “4th wall” and ad-lib or tell gags!

Common Mistake #3
Don’t try and be clever with the genre. A baddie ALWAYS enters from Stage Left and the Goodie ALWAYS enters from Stage Right, for example. Mess at these conventions at your peril! The audience are expecting certain things to be in there, including ‘behind yous’, songsheets, slosh scenes and of course the perennial call out ‘Oh no it isn’t’ !

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