Posted by: christinelaennec | January 12, 2014

Another year, another city, another pantomime!

As regular readers may know, for years we went to the Christmas pantomime with our downstairs neighbours in Aberdeen.  We always enjoyed His Majesty’s Theatre and the British panto tradition.  For those who’ve never been to the pantomime, they are usually based on a fairy tale or children’s story (Sleeping Beauty, Aladdin, Jack and the Beanstalk, etc.).  They involve dancing, singing, slapstick humour, and a variety of jokes.  Some of these will be incomprehensible to the younger members of the audience, with references to local politics and happenings.  There is always a baddie, and lots of audience participation.  “Oh no you’re not!” “Oh yes you are!”.  The “good” characters enlist the help of the audience (addressed as “boys and girls” regardless of demographics) to alert them whenever danger is near.

Waiting for the curtain to rise on The Magical Adventures of Pinocchio at The Pavilion, Glasgow.  January 2014.

Waiting for the curtain to rise on The Magical Adventures of Pinocchio at The Pavilion, Glasgow. January 2014.

The pantomime often has a “dame”:  a female character played by a man.  The tradition of cross-dressing men at Christmas is peculiarly British.  I well remember (as do others) a hilarious sketch at South Holburn Parish Church’s “Carols by Candlelight”.  Two of the elders dressed as women and sang “Sisters, sisters” by Irving Berlin.  Do you know it?  The verse goes “Lord help the mister who comes between me and my sister / and Lord help the sister who comes between me and my man”.  As it so happened, we had two American visitors with us that weekend.  They sat in complete befuddlement, watching these men sing and kick their stocking-ed legs, while all the rest of us (well used to “dames”) fell off our chairs laughing.  I did try to explain the tradition afterwards, but I don’t think I really succeeded!

This year, although we no longer live in Aberdeen, we were able to keep up our tradition, since “downstairs” very obligingly also relocated to Glasgow this summer.  We used to go to the panto between Christmas and New Year’s, but as J and her family were in Aberdeen for Christmas itself, we opted for a New Year’s performance.  The pantomime usually runs from the beginning of December until mid-January.  We opted for the pantomime at The Pavilion Theatre.

The Pavilion Theatre, the National Theatre of Variety, built in 1904.  Glasgow, January 2014.

The Pavilion Theatre, the Scottish National Theatre of Variety, built in 1904. Glasgow, January 2014.

The Pavilion is very like His Majesty’s Theatre in Aberdeen, although not quite as big.  It is two years older, having been built in 1904.

The Dafter managed to come along, which was great, and a good time was had by all.  At the end of the performance we were all (mostly) standing up and singing “one banana, two banana, three banana, four…”.  In time-honoured pantomime tradition, the two sides of the theatre were in competition for who could sing the loudest.

Naturally, our side won!



  1. What a beautiful theatre ….Sounds like you all had a wonderful day..

  2. Fandabidosie! Now try to explain that to those across the pond!

  3. Naturally! I’m so happy to read that the Dafter was able to attend and had a great time. ❤

  4. I too adore pantomimes , there is something so absurdly silly about them and this is what appeals to me . We always took our boys to the palace in Manchester and enjoyed the professional choreography and costumes etc. Sometimes it really does you good just to be ” daft ” and have a good sing a long we are often too serious in life so long live the pantomime ,glad you enjoyed yours ,goodness knows how you explain them to non Brits , but |I am sure they would get the hang of them x

  5. Although I started out working on a Speech and Theatre degree many years ago, this is a form of entertainment with which I am unfamiliar, Christine. Thanks for a very interesting description of it, and I too, am glad to know that Dafter was able to be out and about with family and friends! xx

  6. My sister and I sing that song sometimes, but it’s much funnier done by men and I can well imagine how hilarious it must have been at your church. Very handy indeed having your ex-neighbours on tap for the usual panto tradition and great that the Dafter managed to go along too.

  7. Fascinating to read about different traditions. This sounds like you had so much fun! As a newcomer to your blog I am very curious as to who the Dafter might be.

    • Kathy, the Dafter is our teenage daughter. The story of how she got her blog-name is on my About page, if you’re interested. Thanks for reading!

  8. A traditional pantomime is something I’ve always wished I could see! Thank you for the descriptions! It sounds like so much fun.

  9. It sounds like so much fun and the theater is lovely. So glad The Dafter was able to go. It is interesting to hear about this custom. We have a similar type of pantomime in Seattle, with audience participation and silly skits in the format of a dinner theater. It’s so nice to get out with dear friends and family for some much needed fun on a winter evening. xo

  10. What fun!!!! I’m so glad you all got to go!!! I always wanted to go to a pantomime because everyone talked about it as being such a tradition over there. But the opportunity never presented itself. Maybe in the future….

  11. Oh that sounds so fun. I may have to put this on my bucket list. My family keeps telling me that we need to plan some trips, so far Scotland sounds like something I would love to see.

  12. Thanks everyone! It sounds like we should try to arrange an international blogging trip to the pantomime some Christmastime! In the meantime putting “pantomime dame” as a search on YouTube will yield you some interesting video clips. Yes, it’s really fun and a very distinctive form of theatre.

  13. I think the shrub with the brilliant berries may be a callicarpa. I bought one of those some years ago, attracted by the photo on the label of what the berries would look like. And waited, and waited a bit more – no berries, and eventually it just died. Then late this summer we found one in a garden centre which actually had the berries already there. We brought it home, and it still has those bright shiny berries that look rather as if they are made of plastic. Obviously the birds are not keen on them, and they do cheer up our front garden area.

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