As the countdown to Christmas begins, Lucy Evans pays tribute to that most

British of theatrical institutions

antomime is the theatrical yersion of the

\Voolworth's pick and mi\ counter: sickly sweet.

and full of unnatural additiyex. But once you'ye had your lil'Nl bite you can't stop until you feel sick.

So. as the panto season begins for another year. The Lixl proudly presents some facts you probably didn‘t know about lIll\ most beloyed of famin artformxz

2003 5”“ “‘ mu”) Productions of Show ll’lillt' bell]:—y staged simultaneously that it led to the ['K‘s Iil‘\[ ex er dwarf shortage. Some pl‘otItlcliUlh dow'nscaled (think Snow White uml I/It' I'iuir l)lt'tll'l'(',\ l. while enterprising theatrical agencies saw the chance of a lifetime and imported replacement dwaryex from as far afield as Sweden. Belgium and Romania.

Like the beanstalk itself. panto grew from unpromising roots. Its origins lie in (ireek and Roman theatre (the term ‘pantomime' comes from the (ircek for 'we can act eyerything‘l. In the Middle Ages. cayorting Italian clowns battered each other with inflated pig bladders. setting sky high standards for what would follow.

This year. .\'cig/ilmur.y Bad (iuy Stefan Denis is

Playing the \illainous .-\bana/ar in Alta/din at Her

Majesty's Theatre in .-\berdeen. but generally in Scotland we eschew the purpose-built TV celeb in favour of the well-kent faces of theatre performers

After falling out of fayour in the Hills. the female principal boy was brought back by (‘illa Black in a pioneering performance in W71. Iiy er since. the male leads haye been female and the I)tlliiC\ haye been men.

80 THE LIST 3:3 No. '3 You ““

.IIUl/lt'l' (irHMt‘ is pl‘tlhtlIiI) IIiC UItIL‘\I \ltll'} it) become a pantomime. dating back to a (ireek myth about a bird that lay ed golden eggs. The panto based on the story has been bringing in the gold ex er since. \Vhen Rikki I-‘ulton played the dame at The Alhambra Theatre in (ilaxgow. an incredible 240.00” people saw him.

In 2005 panto \ltll‘\ were signed up by (ilthgH\\\ RSAMI) to giyc \ocal lips to teachers w ho found that classroom teaching ptlt a strain on their meal cords. Seriously.

Theatre is full of odd tt‘aditionx but panto has thrown tip Its \ery own. The fairy always enters \ltlg'L‘ right and the baddie stage left. thought to \yltlboIi/e IIeayen and Hell. The final couplets are ne\er performed in rehearsal. only on the first night. meaning the lines are often forgotten by the actors the III'\I time the audience are there to hear them.

'I‘opical jokes referring to current affairs haye been an integral part of the formula since the late lxills. when pantox began to incorporate llllc‘fviliic‘ references to the (‘rimean \Var. Thi\ year Iidinbut'gh audience\ can e\pect _ioke\ about the (faith. and in (ilaxgow don‘t miss the .iapcs about the new 'bendy bridge‘ oy er the Clyde.

.-\nd that\ it for another year of panto.

Oh no it isn't?

See listings for details of this year’s pantomimes being performed in Edinburgh, Glasgow and beyond.

* St Nicholas tells the tale of a theatre critic who falls in love with an actress. then joins a cult of vampires. Father Ted's Peter Dineen leads in this gothic little number from Conor McPherson with a less than flattering view of modern arts journalism. Eastgate Theatre and Arts Centre, Peebles. Thu 13 Dec. then touring.

* Molly Sweeney Brian Friel’s drama about a blind woman who undergoes an operation to restore her sight with devastating consequences amounts to a powerful and emotive night of drama. Cara Kelly shines in a performance that won her a CATS Best Actress Award. Duns Volunteer Hall, Langtongate, Fri 30 Nov; Citizens' Theatre, Glasgow, Tue 4-Sat 8 Dec; Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Wed 72-Sat 75 Dec.

'l‘ A Sheep Called Skye Delightful children's theatre from the NTS in Nicola McCartney's adaptation of SR Harris' book. The story of the epic journey of the wee lamb of the title has a sweet tempered message about identity to impart. Duns Volunteer Hall, Langtongate, Sat 7 Dec. then touring.

* Scottish Ballet’s Sleeping Beauty Ashley Page’s new take on an old tale reunites the director with designer Anthony McDonald to create a piece that promises to be a feast for both the eyes and the mind. Theatre Royal, Glasgow, Tue 71-Sat 29 Dec. * Fleeto Paddy Cunneen's new piece of lunchtime theatre transposes the Iliad to a Glasgow housing scheme. where a young man falls into evil ways through Glasgow's knife culture. Gripping, gritty and thought-provoking stuff. Oran Mor, Glasgow, until Sat 1 Dec.