Play Reading in English – Pantomime: Cinderella


HK English Speaking Union
  • Mon 14-12-2015 7:15 PM - 2 h

Colette Artbar

Free admission


Pantomime (informally panto) is a type of musical comedy stage production, designed for family entertainment, especially young people. It was developed in England and is still performed there, generally during the Christmas and New Year season and, to a lesser extent, in other English-speaking countries. Modern pantomime includes songs, slapstick comedy and dancing, employs gender-crossing actors (the ‘Dame', conventionally played by a male actor, and the principal boy, conventionally played by a tall young female actor), and combines topical humour with a story loosely based on a well-known fairy tale. It is a participatory form of theatre, in which the audience is expected to sing along with certain parts of the music and shout out phrases to the performers. Pantomime has a long theatrical history in Western culture dating back to classical theatre, and it developed partly from the 16th century commedia dell'arte tradition of Italy, as well as other European and British stage traditions, such as 17th-century masques. An important part of the pantomime, until the late 19th century, was the harlequinade. Outside Britain, the word "pantomime" is usually used to mean miming, rather than the theatrical form discussed here. Pantomime borrows from many folk tales, children’s literature pieces and exotic stories, but the spirit of it is essentially burlesque and exaggeratedly comedic.

The story of Cinderella in the different folk-tale versions by Charles Perrault and the brothers Grimm is intended to be taken seriously. By contrast, the pantomime version, despite following the basic narrative about Cinderella’s rise from the ashes to fall in love with and ultimate marriage to the Prince, is essentially a narrative peg on which to hang the physical and verbal comedy. Much of the comedy in the pantomime version is predicated on Cinderella’s ugly half-sisters (played by male actors) and the cheeky court official Dandini (also known as Buttons in some versions).  Interestingly, ‘panto' tends to be constantly updated to incorporate topical jokes and references, and new versions of recycled pantomimes are very much the norm in the pantomime tradition. A version of Cinderella is, for example, being performed in Hong Kong over the Christmas season 2015.

All are welcome.


Facilitators (and ugly sisters): Mike Ingham and Julian Quail   

Photo credit:

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