Billy says, panto has a comic tradition that lets you say anything
combined with (as Wolfy remarks) a magical tradition that lets the story
fly beyond the everyday.
In more prosaic terms, English pantomime is a Christmas entertainment based on a fairy tale. It is supposedly for children and is usually an English child’s first experience of live theatre. English pantomime is:
A Fairy Story PLUS
There are other traditions too but none that are central to making it work.
The most noticeable of these other traditions is that the hero is often played by a woman in tights. I still cannot find a good dramatic justification for this. Maybe young kids are less frightened by a woman. Certainly men like seeing women’s legs and this must be a good commercial justification. Maybe there is also an echo of lesbian dalliance - such a staple of porn movies. I don’t know.
Another tradition is that the witches and the fairies traditionally talk in verse (usually rhyming pentameters). This can work well as a differentiating device. Shakespeare always used it to divorce the high characters from the low – also it is fun to write and, if reasonably written, fun to act.
If you want to know more, follow the external link below or try English Pantomime in one of the search engines. To continue here click on "Next page" below.
1: Panto Home 2: This page - The tradition 3: The story 4: Pantomime Structure 5: Shaping scenes 6: Music 7: Children The Essay Nick Mellersh's scripts Email Nick Mellersh - the author
External link: http://www.btinternet.com/~nigel.ellacott/history.html - This is the site to learn about pantomime tradition! It's a lovely and comprehensive site written by Nigel Ellacott and Peter Robbins who are among the most famous of actors who play the dame character.