Pantomimes are an integral part of the Christmas holiday culture for many in the United Kingdom. Watford Palace Theatre, in Watford, has been putting on pantomimes for many years, to great success, and have for a while been adding a twist; for one exclusive performance, Parmiter’s School, from the nearby area, have bought out the audience, making it a school-exclusive event, and the cast add in jokes about the school, turning this into an excellent opportunity for community building.

With the cliches, archetypal characters and an unavoidable happy ending, some believe pantomimes to be derivative and dull. Yet year after year, crowds flock to watch them, demonstrating the timeless appeal of such a joyful, uplifting winter tradition. However, to pass on this custom to future generations, a new way to be engaging is needed. 

Having an audience that is exclusively from the same school creates a friendly and warm environment. Although you may not have any friends there at all, there are always recognisable faces, and audience participation is always more enjoyable when the poor victim is someone you know (and then can laugh at more). Furthermore, the opportunity is taken to promote in school events, normally asking for charitable donations towards the charities supported by the in school scheme of Dragon’s Apprentice. The atmosphere allows everyone to have a comfortable and enjoyable time, as well as letting family members of students meet others, bringing the school closer together. 

This opportunity also allows the cast and crew to fill in the script with personalised jokes. Specific teachers are called out, inside jokes referenced and authority figures mocked in good humour, creating an open and engaging play which every member of the audience can enjoy, even the teachers being mocked lightheartedly. It allows everyone to feel like part of a club, one part of a whole, with inside jokes only they could understand, boosting morale and pride in one’s school.

This isn’t an easy event to arrange - the staff who do this undertake a lot of work and are always worthy of the round of applause given to them at the end. However, what can be taken away from this experience for all students, staff and family members is so valuable that it is worth the effort. This pantomime allows for creation of a community, engagement in a long-held tradition, and most importantly, a good time.

Annabel Thomas