December is finally upon us and minor celebrities across the country are warming up their vocal cords, honing their audience banter and donning wigs and dresses – yet another celebrity scandal?

Oh no it isn’t!

It’s pantomime season and we at PG Stage can’t wait. As traditional as Christmas pudding and baubles, the annual Christmas panto is a time of joy for all the family, with kids enchanted by classic tales such as Dick Whittington and Aladdin and adults tickled by the occasional naughty joke or double entendre despite the fact they’ve heard the story a thousand times.

Despite cuts in other areas of theatre, it seems like the panto is stronger than ever with shows sold out across the country already (if you want to catch one, you should probably book now!). While they’re not exactly Hamlet or Equus, pantomime performances are incredibly popular. Why is this?

The answer is that they’re easily accessible. Anyone of any age can go along to a panto, pick up the plot, have a giggle and leave with a big smile on their face rather than scratching their head over a pretentious plot.

Pantos are easy-going because there is no expectation of professionalism in pantomime. Performers regularly break from the script, technical difficulties such as stage lighting failures are shrugged off or included as part of the performance and the audience is encouraged to interact with the performers.

All of which means that a pantomime is actually relatively easy to produce and perform, even for the most ragtag bunch of amateur dramatists or drama students! The popularity of panto means that they’re a great fundraiser too – arguably more so than any other form of performance.

While the train for performing a panto this year has already left the station (although it’s a good idea to go and catch one this year for inspiration), it’s a good time to consider holding your own next year and start making preparations for what you need.

If you already have a performance space then you’re halfway to panto success already. Pantomime is a traditional form of performance and as such is usually staged traditionally. This means the stage is front on to the audience, with seating positioned in front of the stage.

Lighting is usually simplistic so a simple rig with a few filters would suffice. Stage drapes are essential for set changes, while good sound systems for stage will give your dame’s singing the audio quality it deserves!

Following on from that, you’ll need to settle on a script and a group of performers. Thankfully, choosing a panto script isn’t difficult; no-one goes to a pantomime expecting a great plot twist or innovation so settle for one of the well-known scripts such as ‘Dick Whittington’. You can find quite a few of these online!

Performer-wise, you won’t need professionals – part of the charm of panto lies in its ragtag nature. If you’re putting on a community performance, encourage everyone and anyone to audition. The same goes for a school performance – even if the students aren’t drama students, you’ll be surprised how much they can learn from dressing up as a woman and denying things are behind them.

So this year, go and watch a panto and get inspired for your own performance next year! And if you need any help putting together a performance space, don’t forget to give the heroes and dames at PG Stage a call on 0161 830 0303.

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