“Pantomime may refer to two different types of performing arts. In the UK the word pantomime applies almost exclusively to a form of non-silent comic theatre traditionally performed at Christmas for a mixed audience of adults and children, and the word mime applies almost exclusively to silent performance. Outside of the UK pantomime generally refers to the latter meaning, though it is still commonly abbreviated to mime.”
In the British theatre, pantomime is a Christmas or New Year entertainment. Its origins can be traced back to the 16th and 17th century and it has retained elements from the harlequin and burlesque spectacles such as having an actress playing the part of the principal boy whilst the dame is always played by a man – yes really!
Many of the plots are based on classic stories like Puss in Boots, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Red Riding Hood. An element of slapstick is essential as are the inclusion of popular songs, topical humor and satire. Stories always have goodies and baddies and a few intellectually challenged characters. Audience participation is an absolute must – OH YES IT IS! Honestly folks, your kids can shout out to their hearts content and no-one will mind. Some of the comedy routines have become traditional and are eagerly awaited by audiences who know them just as well as do the performers.
Nowadays, people may try to tell you that panto is for children. Then they'll attempt to emasculate the script, commenting that the baddies are frightening, witches are unchristian and the jokes are too naughty. Rumour has it that one group even produced, 'Snow White and the Seven Persons of Diminished Stature'! Well, pantomime has never been politically correct. Instead, it brings us face to face with our greed, prejudice, cowardice and dishonesty, and forces us to laugh at ourselves.
Once upon a time a group of British ex-pats got together and decided that it was a pity that their children were missing out on one of the great British traditions of the festive season – PANTOMIME. Out of this discussion came the decision to put on a performance and so the Secret Panto Society was born. The name was decided upon, not with any intention to keep people out or become some sort of creed but with a genuine desire to surprise and delight that first audience.
This first performance took place in 1984 with a production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, the title role being played by a young lady who was destined to be a leading light in numerous productions for many years and is still involved in the SPS today. In fact, several of the founding members are still to be found treading the boards, building scenery, making costumes and working back-stage each year. Of the original children in the audience, many have performed over the years and the Society continues to exist to this day albeit with an ever-changing, multi-nationality membership. It is said that “from small acorns large oak trees grow”, and so it is with the SPS who now put on six (seven in 2009) shows in the Theatre Musical de Pibrac every January.
There is always a welcome for new members, you don’t have to be a performer, there are several behind the scenes jobs to get your teeth into and it’s great fun being involved.
The satisfaction of seeing the performances is a great reward for all the hard work of the preceding months. This is amateur dramatics at its best - it's terrific!
If you are interested in joining the SPS please contact us.