The origins of pantomime stories

In this new millennium, fairy tales are flourishing. The children's sections of libraries and bookshops are bursting with beautiful editions of well-known fairy tales, with exotic, vivid illustrations. Their collections are worldwide: Russian, German, Japanese, Chinese, Persian, Scandinavian, African, North American, British, and more. To have survived over the ages, the traditional fairy tales must have had very strong and special meanings. And this would explain their longevity. The secret of this longevity has been transferred to Pantomime, which draws most of its stories from well-known fairy-tales, popular folk-tales and similar sources. English Pantomimes usually contain stock characters such as the principal boy, (generally played by a young girl with shapely legs) the heroine (also played by a young girl) And a dame (almost always played by a man) who is an exaggeration of a lewd middle-aged lady. Scripts change from year to year, to reflect the times. And one of the strengths of pantomime, is that is constantly evolving and updating. Pantomime, or 'panto' as it is affectionately called in Britain, contains four strands of humour: visual, topical, corny and the downright rude. The same type of humour that is to be found on saucy seaside postcards.
The story of Aladdin comes from the Thousand-And-One Nights fable. (or stories from The Arabian Nights) which also includes Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, and Sinbad the Sailor. The original story is set in China, but a strangely Arabian China (populated with genies and magicians) But in the case of panto, it is a very English China - hence it is centred around a Chinese laundry. Limelight Scripts version sticks to the traditional storyline. But like all good panto's it also incorporates up to date themes (in this case Dr Who's Tardis makes an appearance) reflecting current popular shows.
Jack And The Beanstalk is closely associated with the fairy tale of 'Jack the Giant Killer'. The origin of Jack and the Beanstalk is unknown, although the author was almost certainly British. The earliest printed edition, which has survived is the 1807 book 'The history of Jack and the bean-stalk'. Printed from the original manuscript, never before published. Although the story was already in existence sometime before this time as a burlesque of the story entitled 'The Story of Jack Spriggins and the Enchanted Bean' was included in the 1734 second edition of Round about our Coal-Fire. Limelight Scripts version follows the traditional story, but still manages to add something unique in the form of a lift installed on the beanstalk. This is used to great comic effect.
Cinderella is probably the most famous fairytale of them all. And embodies the classic folk tale myth-element of unjust oppression/triumphant reward, which received literally hundreds of tellings before modern times. The earliest version of the story originated in China around AD 860. It appeared in The Miscel Record of Yu Yang by Tuan Ch'ing-Shih, a book which dates from the Tang dynasty. The best-known version was written by the French author, Charles Perrault in 1697, based on a common folk tale earlier recorded by Giambattista Basile as 'La Gatta Cennerentola' in 1634. Limelight script's version adds a new element to the traditional pantomime by casting Buttons as the inventor of a 'high tech' beauty measuring machine, which he uses to measure the ugly sisters charms, or lack of them.
The story of Dick Whittington is based on a real person who held office of Lord Mayor of London three times, in 1397, 1406 and 1419. And contrary to popular belief he was not a poor, ill-treated orphan who managed against all the odds to work his way up to the top job. He did in fact come from a very wealthy family and was a successful businessman before becoming Lord Mayor. And the "cat" with which Dick made his fortune in the Dick Whittington tale, was a type of merchant ship rather than a feline cat. Which would explain why the shipwreck scene is such an integral part of the pantomime version. And it is certainly used to great effect in this full length version of the the Whittington story
Sleeping Beauty ("La Belle aux bois dormant") is a fairy tale classic, the first in the set published in 1697 by Charles Perrault. Elements of the story are contained in Giambattista Basile's 'Pentamerone ' (published in 1634) in the tale 'Sun, Moon and Talia' J. R. R. Tolkien noted that Perrault's cultural presence is so pervasive that, when asked to name a fairy tale, most people will cite one of the eight stories in Perrault's collection.
The name of Mother Goose has been closely associated with nursery rhymes. And although the title is seemingly as English as plum pudding, the origin of the name is still a matter of dispute. Some trace it to a French collection of tales by Charles Perrault (1697) that had the subtitle 'Contes de ma mère L'Oye' (tales of mother goose) This name has in turn been traced to Queen Goosefoot, the mother of the German speaking King Charlemagne (anno 742) who was a patron of children. Others claim an American origin in 'Mother Goose's Melodie', published 1719 in Boston by Thomas Fleet, whose mother-in-law was said to be Elizabeth Vergoose. A collection of Mother Goose rhymes was published by John Newbery in London in 1765. The subject matter of the rhymes has been linked by some scholars to actual events in English political history. Limelight Scripts are proud to offer Graham J Evans pantomime version of the well-loved tale.
The legend of Robin Hood has been handed down from the many ballads and stories about the legendary hero. Embellished and added to down the centuries, to become the myth (or is it) that has fuelled countless Hollywood versions. The existence of Maid Marian is much more doubtful than Robin Hood himself. But it gives the all important love interest that all good hero stories seem to need. In pantomime terms, Robin Hood is more traditionally found in the story of Babes In The Wood According to tradition and folklore the tale of the Babes In The Wood is said to be based on two Norfolk children whose cruel uncle decided to do away with them. The setting is Wayland Wood or as it is known by its old name 'Wailing Wood'. The Babes in the Wood was presented in the form of an old English ballad first published in Norwich by Thomas Millington in 1595. The pantomime version generally features Robin Hood as the Babes rescuer. Robin Hood and his men are fully to the fore in this second offering from Limelight Scripts Babes In The Wood (ver 2).
A more recent addition to pantomime (but fast catching on in popularity) is Treasure Island Based on the classic tale by Robert Louis Stevenson, this version follows the sequence of events faithfully. But in every other respect is a rip-roaring traditional pantomime.
Bringing us bang up to date, is this offering of The Grinch The Panto by Limelight Scripts. Which is loosely based on the Grinch who stole Christmas by Dr Suess. This pantomime offers great scope for magical Christmas based scenes, such as the Snow Queens palace, and Santa's workshop.

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