My name is Aoife, pronounced E-fah. I’m 23 years old, and I am an unashamed panto fan.

Oh yes I am.

Lifelong fan

It’s been such a lifelong relationship that I’m not even sure where it began. Perhaps it all started in the late 90s when I was six, and my parents took me to see Aladdin in Cork Opera House near my home in the south of Ireland. I was hooked straight off the bat.

Panto has been around for centuries, dating back even to the Ancient Greeks being entertained by what was originally a group who “imitates all” accompanied by sung narrative and instrumental music, often played on the flute. Eventually, the word pantomime came to mean the performance itself. It’s become synonymous with British entertainment (what do you mean there’s no panto in the US?), and even more so with Christmas. In fact, you might struggle to find a major town or city across the country that isn’t hosting a panto over the festive season.

Nudge nudge wink wink 😉

One reason panto has become so beloved is its suitability for any audience. Kids can marvel at the colourful costumes and catchy songs they’ve heard blaring from the radio throughout the year. Older audiences can sit and snigger at the jokes that sailed straight over the youngster’s heads. If panto is anything, it’s not quite subtly filthy. If you’ve got a mind even slightly in the gutter, a panto audience is beyond doubt the place for you.

No problem finding the toilets at the pantomime…

Not just theatre

From 1998 to 2002, ITV recorded three pantos and televised them over the following years; Dick Whittington, Jack and the Beanstalk and Cinderella. They featured big names like Paul “isn’t he on Have I Got News For You” Merton, Alexander “the guy from Pointless” Armstrong, and Harry “he has a show like You’ve Been Framed” Hill. They’re still available on YouTube, and are definitely worth a watch on a wintry evening like the ones we’ve got coming our way.

Almost anything can be made into a panto, a true test to its versatility as an art form. From well-known fairy tales like Beauty and the Beast, Robin Hood and Snow White to reflections on popular culture – my own undergrad university’s drama society penned The Adventures of the Wickedly Talented Adele Dazeem following John Travolta’s just last year. Panto is a free for all.

For me, panto has been one of the most enjoyable forms of entertainment you could get. I’ve been to more than I can remember, and I’ve even taken a starring role in one. I’ve recently booked tickets to see my first panto in years, so my little absence from the scene? It’s behind you. (Me.)

Check out where your favourite musical performer will be in panto this year…

…and if you go, why not write a review for Kettle Mag?