Gregg Nunney: Panto is so British... Oh no it isn’t!

Panto traditions are long and varied, says Gregg
Panto traditions are long and varied, says Gregg
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Oh no it isn’t! Oh yes it is! Oh, crikey... it actually is.

It seems like only 10 minutes ago that we were enjoying the lazy, crazy, hazy days of the hottest summer in years and now panto season has appeared from nowhere.

Come to think of it, I think it was behind us...

It’s one of those traditions that seems so uniquely British – a bit like Benny Hill and the Carry On movies but, believe it or not, pantomime’s roots lie in 16th century Italy.

Now, I’m not going to bore you with a history lesson, but the precursor of today’s panto was that iconic Harlequin character who would appear in classic tales adding an edge of slapstick and clowning around.

The medium came to the UK in the 1800s and, since then, certain standards have been maintained.

There is almost always a dame, double entendre, audience participation and the lead young male character being played by an actress.

The idea of a celebrity appearing in the show also dates back to the 19th century where London theatre would draft in some of its biggest names to put bums on seats and, arguably, those actors would have been the equivalent of today’s soap stars.

I think the most “modern” part of pantomime is the array of Australian and American celebrities who come over to spend a month as Dandini or Widow Twanky.

In the 1990s the influx of stars from Neighbours and Home and Away began and in recent years the likes of Henry Winkler, David Hasselhoff and Mickey Rooney have been treading the boards in locations as varied as Sunderland and Milton Keynes.

Panto has a sense of humour that could only ever be British and it’s evident in every thigh slap, every pair of pink spotted bloomers and every Peter Pan on a rope.

It appears to be just as popular now as it’s ever been and long may it continue.