London is known for its arts culture. Dating back hundreds of years, many prominent institutions have paved the way for culture and entertainment in the city, often melding the two. From Shakespeare’s Globe to the Royal Academies training of William Blake, London is one of the most famous cities in the worlds of creativity and culture.
And that’s where pantomime comes in.
A uniquely British form of performance, pantomime is not usually considered a form of “high art”, but actually did develop from more esteemed forms. Its proto form can be found in Italian Commedia Del Arte genre of masked, archetypal character performance, whilst the style of performance also has its roots in the Mummers Play, folklore tinged theatre that told the story of St George and the Dragon. The latter were often performed around Christmas, and both precursors were filled with the same raunchy humour and gender reversal that is still common within pantomime.
As time went on, England, or more precisely London became a hotbed for this rowdy entertainment, until the genre eventually became more family-friendly in the 20th century and formed the basis of the modern-day pantomime. This genre, usually performed in the Christmas period, is a family-friendly and community-focused entertainment in which retellings of fairytales and folk tales are embellished with lavish, loud costumes and bawdy, audience interactive comedy.
The pantomime then is a great way for guests staying at the Shaftesbury Hotel Collection to get to know the popular culture of London during the Christmas period. Booking tickets to a show will also give you a chance to get out of the city centre to see some of the most historic community focused theatres in the city. Win-win!
So… with Christmas just around the corner and the pantomime season almost upon us, what can we expect this December?
Goldilocks and the Three Musketeers at the BAC
Goldilocks and the Three Musketeers is a new pantomime combining both fairy tales and classic literature into one rip-roaring pantomime adventure. Fun for all the family, this new contemporary pantomime is being staged at the historic Battersea Arts Centre throughout December, giving South London locals and visitors a chance to enjoy a one of kind night out.
The Snail and the Whale
The musical of the beloved children’s book is being performed at the Apollo Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue, giving families a chance to capture the magic of both the magical play and the glittering West End of London.
A Christmas Carol at the Old Vic
Arguably Dickens most famous novel gets a revival for the stage this Christmas. The prestigious Old Vic Theatre will see the story of Scrooge come to life in full force, bringing in a wide range of talented cast members in a vivid retelling of the Victorian fable. An authentically London-centric story, the Old Vic is the perfect theatre experience for guests at the Shaftesbury Hotel Paddington who are looking for an accessible introduction to the London theatre scene this festive season.
The Nativity Panto at the Kings Head Theatre
This retelling of the Nativity story has been revamped for the ultimate pantomime experience. The iconic Kings Head fringe theatre in Islington is the perfect place for this pun-tastic, all dinging, all-dancing Christmas story. Whether you’re on the lookout for a unique take on the start of the New Testament, or you’re just in it for the laughs, this is one not to miss.
Snow White at the Chickenshed
Snow White is one of the classic fairy tale stories, and so it’s no surprise that the community-led Chickenshed Theatre is putting it on for all the family to enjoy. Based in Southgate in North London, audience members will find this vivid retelling transport Snow White into the revolutionary 1960s, where she’ll discover both herself and new, hip friends along the swinging sixties way.
Dick Whittington at Stratford East
Stratford East is one of the most iconic community theatres in East London and promises a unique range of shows that are accessible for family audiences. This Christmas however, sees the happy go lucky Dick Whittington take to the stage and try to make his fortune in London.
Dick Whittington and his Cat at Hackney Empire
Another Dick Whittington themed treat will be staged at the award-winning Hackney Empire. Based on Mare Street, this vibrant theatre will tell a Jamaican migrant rendition of the classic London tale and will include his famous cat. Based on an actual London legend, the rags to riches folk story of once mayor of London Richard Whittington is being retold for the modern-day and is an ideal way for guests at the Grand Royale London Hyde Park to get to know the diverse borough of Hackney.
Sleeping Beauty at the Greenwich Theatre
The Greenwich Theatre is located in the magical borough of Greenwich, home to the glittering Cutty sark and Greenwich Royal Observatory. Alongside the views of the London cityscape, visitors in the area can enjoy the Greenwich Theatre’s Sleeping Beauty. Written by the famed pantomime writer Andrew Pollard, Sleeping Beauty will see a new take on the age-old story, reviving it in the minds fo young and old alike. One thing’s for sure when Pollard makes a pantomime, no one will be falling asleep any time soon!
The Snowman at the Peacock Theatre
The classic children’s book and TV movie will be brought to life once again at the Peacock Theatre. Now in its 22nd year, The Snowman will lift you off your feet and take you on a magical ride through the West End. This theatre is part of London history too, dating back to the 17th century.
The Snow Queen at the Park Theatre
This classic Grimm’s brothers fairytale sees the creepy story of the Snow Queen retold for modern audiences. The Finsbury Park based Park Theatre is known for revolutionary new writing and this story that inspired Frozen will definitely put a spell on all ages.