Writing Once Upon a Time in Pantoland

by | Jun 2, 2022

The Concept

In early Summer 2021, a good friend of mine asked if I’d be interested in writing a bespoke script for their pantomime return following the lifting of Covid 19 restrictions, of course I jumped at the chance. I write several bespoke scripts every year for various productions, but this one was special. It is the first large scale production for them since the beginning of the pandemic, and the time line was shorter than usual. We took the script from plot outline to a full script in just 3 months. The whole production process has took less than 9 months!

Traditions

I knew we needed to have a traditional pantomime structure with all the recognisable characters and locations. Setting the show in Pantoland felt like a good way to access all those places and characters. We took inspiration
from some of the pantomime mash-ups which managed to make it to opening night in Christmas 2020 like Pantoland at the Palladium and Dame Dolly Saves Panto.

Characters

So I’ve got the panto comic and dame, principle boy and girl, ‘skin’ roles (the animals!), baddies and good fairies. But I also thought it would be fun to include some references to well known panto titles, so there’s a policeman which is a traditional character in Aladdin, and the Fairy Grandmother is an aged version of Cinderella’s magical helper. You often get a King in Jack and the Beanstalk or Sleeping Beauty so that felt like something I could play on by taking Prince Charming and imagining what happened happy ever afterwards. Plus a new take on the magic mirror a concept borrowed from Snow White and Beauty and the Beast.

Routines

I’ve taken traditional pantomime sketches and given them a fresh twist. There’s the schoolroom routine, usually featured in Sleeping Beauty or Mother Goose, and the ‘parcel’ sequence with our postman is based on several panto skits. All of the slapstick comes from a rich history of panto tradition. Not forgetting the rhyming couplets, ghost gag and song sheet.

Modernity

One thing we switched up is the role of the principal girl. In pantos gone by, she might have been a sidelined character that gets kidnapped, pricked to sleep or poisoned. But not Tilly Tickle. She’s fierce, determined and keeps the faith right to the last moment. Most importantly, a good pantomime has a strong moral running through its core. Ours, I hope, is clear. Love and laughter will always win the day, even in the darkest of times. ‘Make ‘Em Laugh’ and all your troubles will melt away. And if you put your mind to it, you can achieve whatever you want.

You can find out more about the plot, characters and settings, read an extract from the script, or order a free digital perusal copy of the script here:

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