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Pantomime is the name given to a particular kind of theatrical presentation, and sometimes to a particular form of performance (e.g. mime).

Sometimes referred to simply as Panto

Pantomime as concept

The term has a range of meanings, including:

1 The art or technique of communicating emotions, actions, feelings, and so without words, using only gestures, movements and facial expressions - i.e. as the equivalent of the word "Mime"[1] - which its the more commonly used term today.

2 As a play or entertainment in which the performers express themselves mutely by gestures, often to the accompaniment of music.

3 Most often defined today as an exotic form of entertainment for the entire family which is remotely based on a fairy tale or familiar story, but padded with popular songs, topical comedy and peopled with cross-dressed men and women. This kind of presentation originated in Britain as a specific form , based on aspects of ancient Roman mime, the 16th century commedia dell'arte tradition of Italy and 17th-century masques and music hall performances. The meaning here is much more specific, referring to a theatrical work based on some (often well-known) fairy tale or nursery story and aimed largely at children. The performance consists of the story enhanced by music, dance, topical jokes and slapstick comedy. In Britain and its former colonies such performances tend to take place near Christmas. An important part of the pantomime, until the late 19th century, was the harlequinade.

A variant form is the so-called Shadow pantomime.

For a comprehensive popular overview, see for example the entry on "Pantomime" in Wikipedia[2].

See also Harlequin

The history of pantomime in South Africa

Because of socio-political and cultural ties with Britain, pantomime became an integral part of the South African theatre tradition in the 19th century.

Beginnings in the 19th Century

The first locally written pantomime in South Africa was performed in 1813, entitled The Siege of Troy, it was written by Charles Etienne Boniface.

Sefton Parry introduced the tradition of a seasonal pantomime with his production of Beauty and the Beast in 1857. Others active in this field include Ray and Cooper (1860s) and the United Service Dramatic Company of Captain Disney Roebuck (1870s and 1880s).

Early 20th century

During the First World War the seasonal pantomimes were mainly produced by the J.C. Williamson organisation and the local impresario Leonard Rayne. They initiated the tradition of mounting a pantomime to tour the main centres. This tradition continued by African Theatres, was brought to an end by the depression of the 1930s.

Amateur dramatic societies started to produce pantomimes I 1935, a practice which gained momentum in the late 1950s. After 1955 when African Consolidated Theatres did their last pantomime, amateur dramatic companies became mainly responsible for staging pantomimes.

Pantomimes on ice

Pantomime on ice became popular in the second half of the 20th century, first introduced to South African audiences in 1953 by African Consolidated Theatres.

From 1960 till 1993

In Durban, during the 1960s Marjorie Chase developed this entertainment further. * This trend was only changed in 1980 when NAPAC staged Cinderella by John Moss, the leading local panto scriptwright.

During the 1990s PACT produced pantomimes in English and Afrikaans with Janice Honeyman as scriptwriter and Nerina Ferreira as translator (in the case of Afrikaans).


From 1994 onwards

Pantomimes performed in South Africa

Click on the titles to go to the entry on the specific work or set of works.

Pantomimes based on fairy tales and children's stories



Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves

Ali Baba or The Forty Thieves

Alice in Wonderland

Babes in the Wood

Beauty and the Beast


Dick Whittington

Jack and the Beanstalk

Little Bo-Peep, or Harlequin and the Little Girl who Lost her Sheep

Little Jack Horner

Little Jack Horner, or Harlequin A.B.C.

Little Red Riding Hood

A Nativity

The New Aladdin

Puss in Boots

Robinson Crusoe

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Sleeping Beauty

The Sleeping Beauty

The Wizard of Oz


Jack and the Beanstalk

Jan en die Boontjierank

Het Beleg van Troyen

The Siege of Troy

Dick Whittington

Dick Whittington and his Cat

Doringrosie van Roosfontein


Little Red Riding Hood

Little Jack Horner, or Harlequin A.B.C.

Harlequinesque pantomime

Clown and Goose

Harlequinesque Pantomime

Harlequin - the pantomime

Harlequin Pantomime

Robinson Crusoe, or Harlequin Friday

Harlequin and Mother Goose, or The Golden Egg

Harlequin - the pantomime

Harlequinesque Pantomime

Little Jack Horner, or Harlequin A.B.C.

The Fair One with the Golden Locks

Adult pantomimes

The Cunning Wife, or The Lover in the Sack

L'Enfant Prodigue

Little Don Giovanni, or Leporello and the Stone Statue

Running Mad Through Love

Pantomime Pie

A Pantomime Rehearsal

The Mock Statue, or The Old Man Deceived

Baking and Roasting without Fire

Baking and Roasting without Fire (a "burlesque Pantomime never before acted here").

Clown and Goose

Pantomime Farce

South African adaptations and translations

A Nativity Graskop Races Home! Snow White and the Seven Dofs Rooikêppetjie RooiKôppitjie IMumbo Jumbo Die Spook van Donkergat Starbrite –Star Bright Robin's A Cruise-Ou

Adult pantomime

Oromidas, ou Le Balêt de Balais Le Barbier de Séville, ou La Précaution Inutile Barbier de Seville

Rotten Hood; Sinderella Het Beleg van Troyen The Miser, or Happiness found in Gold



The story of pantomime: Produced as part of Christmas at the V&A (running from 3 December 2016 to 6 January 2017)[[3]]

F.C.L. Bosman. 1928. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel I: 1652-1855. Pretoria: J.H. de Bussy. [4]

F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1916. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik

P.J. du Toit. 1988. Amateurtoneel in Suid-Afrika. Pretoria: Academica

M.S. Kruger. 1997. Tradisionele elemente en kontemporêre tendense in die pantomime: 'n teater-historiese ondersoek. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Stellenbosch: University of Stellenbosch.

M.S. Kruger. 2000. English pantomime: reflections on a dynamic tradition. South African Theatre Journal, 14:146-173.

M.S. Kruger. 2003. Pantomime in South Africa: the British tradition and the local flavour. South African Theatre Journal, 17:129-152.

Pantomime in Wikipedia[5]

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