Panto Day 2020
Friday 18th December

Panto Advice

Writing Panto Romance

Production shot from Mammy Goose, Tron Theatre, 2018. Image: JJ Johnston


It’s electricity.

Or fate.

But more often than not, it’s the bit where everyone in the audience decides to open their bags of Haribos. The meet/cute scene. The love song. The moment in the show where our intrepid heroine/hero falls in love and tells or sings to us that no feeling has ever felt like before.

It’s the slushy romantic scene. The scene that sets up the entire stakes for the whole show. The moment Beauty realises she loves the Beast. Where Jasmine and Aladdin wish for a life together despite the differences in social class. Where Cinderella meets her Prince Charming and immediately realises she loves him. And it’s usually followed by an Ed Sheeran or Taylor Swift tune.

It’s romantic, but, can also be helluva dull.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

As pantomime reflects the time we live in too, so must the romantic scene. It should feel modern and original. A tough ask considering the sheer volume of stories our audience have been exposed to. How do we do that successfully?

Make it count

Every word you write should be dripping with character. Don’t go for well heard and overly predictable platitudes and cliches (unless you’re making a virtue of this and going for comedy effect). This meeting of two souls should reveal their character, their strengths, their weakness and, most of all, show us how these two people work brilliantly together. Reflect it in what they say.

Make it funny

For far too long we’ve left the romantic leads in the comedic shade. There’s a brilliant opportunity to make them funny, to make their meet/cute scene unpredictable and hilarious. Not only will it make the audience root for them even more, the actors will love you for it.

Make it meaningful

Really examine the message you want to send out. Is the story of the Cinderella you’re working on really that all a woman needs is a rich man to take her away from any troubles in her life? Hopefully not. Examine the relationship from both sides – why do they love each other? What does Cinderella show the Prince, that money is irrelevant? That he could do so much with the privilege afforded to him? That pitting women against each other in a public environment is somewhat gross and archaic? Let your romantic leads challenge and change each other, for the better.

Make it modern

The stories we rework each Christmas season are old. Rip up the rule book. You’re putting out stories for a new generation, the message behind the story should reflect our current culture. Tell love stories that you want to see on stage. I’ve written same-sex love stories for Christmas because I want to see my life represented on that stage. Write it from a place of honesty and integrity and don’t worry about how it’s received. Audiences will always respond to authenticity. Our work is a snapshot into our lives. Even if it’s heightened and funny.

Make it yours

It’s all very well to listen to advice like this but take it all with a pinch of salt. Trust your gut, write what you’d love to see. Originality and fresh thinking will always win out – and stop the rustling of sweeties in the audience.

And most of all, make your audience believe in the optimism of love. There’s no greater feeling.

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