- noun a style of theatre, or a play in this style, traditionally performed at Christmas, in which a folktale or children’s story is told with jokes songs, and dancing
- An English theatrical form that developed from the harlequinadein the 18th century. It was also influenced by the 18th-century Frenchballets-pantomimes, which were distantly related to a Romantradition called pantomime consisting of a dumb show performed bya single masked dancer (see pantomimus). The developmentof pantomime as a distinct form owed much to the famous harlequin,John Rich (see the Riches), who emphasized the comicaspects of the harlequinade in his productions. In the early 19thcentury the genre was transformed by Joseph Grimaldi, whointroduced many of its now-established conventions.
Traditionally, pantomime is a Christmas entertainment, intendedparticularly for children. The sketchy plots, which are usually basedloosely on fairy tales, are embellished with music, dancing, transformationscenes, slapstick, audience participation, and topical references.A woman in tights usually plays the part of the principal boy,while a man plays the part of the dame. Today professionalproductions are usually spectacular affairs, with leading TV personalitiesand comedians playing the main roles.
Traditional subjects for pantomimes include Aladdin, AliBaba, Babes in the Wood, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Dick Whittington.