Fun Christmas Entertainment? Oh yes it is! Pantomime Culture in Britain and Jamaica

Panto
Fun Christmas Entertainment? Oh yes it is! Pantomime Culture in Britain and Jamaica
Veronica on Pantomime Culture

It’s that time again when the big companies compete for the best Christmas advert and the stores start playing our favourite Christmas songs. As a grandparent, my mind turns to taking the grandkids to a Pantomime. After all, Christmas and pantomimes go together like strawberries and ice cream, or turkey with all the trimmings!  
 
The pantomime is the art of the impossible. Full of music, song, dancing, comedy, innuendo, and lots of audience participation, they require you to suspend your disbelief and use your imagination.  
 
In pantomime there are themes involving orphans with trials to overcome, ambition and greed, leading, of course, to happy-everafter, rags-to-riches endings. They are make-believe worlds, dramatized fairy and folk stories full of heroes and villains like Buttons, the Ugly Sisters, and of course the fairy godmother. Wicked dames – men dressed as women in colourful clothes, huge wigs and heavy makeup – also contribute to the fun.   
 
In Jamaica pantomimes are put on by the Little Theatre Movement. Founded in 1941 to promote theatre and drama on the island, the LTM is still going strong with thousands attending their Christmas pantomimes every year. Jamaican culture, fables and politics all influence LTM panto storylines; for instance, Anansi and Goat Head Soup, involving the return of the mythical spider Anansi to the mysterious - and soon to be independent - Jamma-Land is a far cry from the LTM’s first production of Jack and the Beanstalk in 1941!   

In Jamaica Boxing Day is usually panto day - but we lived in the country and didn’t have a television, so instead of watching Cinderella, we would sit around the radio and listen to stories about Brother Anansi the tricky spider, and to early LTM pantomime favourites like Miss Lou (Louise Bennett) and Ranny Williams telling jokes in English and patois. 
 
In recent years LTM pantomimes have been performed in Jamaica, Trinidad, Leeds and London, demonstrating the enduring popularity of this colourful form of Christmas entertainment for audiences of all ages and backgrounds, both in the Caribbean and in Britain.