Sunday, 6 December 2009

Christmas Pantomime

Each day from now until Christmas day one article will be devoted to a subject connected with Christmas. Today we take a look at Christmas pantomime.

Pantomime (informally, panto) (not to be confused with a mime artist, referring to a theatrical performer of mime) is a musical-comedy theatrical production traditionally found in the United Kingdom, Canada, Jamaica, Australia, South Africa, Japan, Ireland, Gibraltar and Malta, and is mostly performed during the Christmas and New Year season.

A pantomimos in Greece was originally a group who 'imitated all' (panto- - all, mimos - mimic) accompanied by sung narrative and instrumental music, often played on the flute. The word later came to be applied to the performance itself. The pantomime was a popular form of entertainment in ancient Greece and, later, Rome. Like theatre, it encompassed the genres of comedy and tragedy. No ancient pantomime libretto has survived, partly because the genre was looked down upon by the literary elite. Nonetheless, notable ancient poets such as Lucan wrote for the pantomime, no doubt in part because the work was well paid. In a speech of the late 1st century AD now lost, the orator Aelius Aristides condemned the pantomime for its erotic content and the 'effeminacy' of its dancing.
The style and content of modern pantomime have very clear and strong links with the Commedia dell'arte, a form of popular theatre that arose in Italy in the Early Modern Period, and which reached England by the 16th century. A 'comedy of professional artists' travelling from province to province in Italy and then France, they improvised and told stories which told lessons to the crowd and changed the main character depending on where they were performing. The great clown Grimaldi transformed the format. Each story had the same fixed characters: the lovers, father, servants (one being crafty and the other stupid), etc. These roles/characters can be found in today's pantomimes.
The gender roll reversal resembles the old festival of Twelfth Night, a combination of Epiphany and midwinter feast, when it was customary for the natural order of things to be reversed. This tradition can be traced back to pre-Christian European festivals such as Samhain and Saturnalia
Traditionally performed at Christmas, with family audiences consisting mainly of children and parents, British pantomime is now a popular form of theatre, incorporating song, dance, buffoonery, slapstick, cross-dressing, in-jokes, audience participation, and mild sexual innuendo. There are a number of traditional story-lines, and there is also a fairly well-defined set of performance conventions. Lists of these items follow, along with a special discussion of the 'guest celebrity' tradition, which emerged in the late 19th century.

Looking Back - Choking Fog Spreads Across Britain

On this day in 1962, a thick layer of fog which has covered London for the last three days was spreading all over the country.
Leeds has recorded its highest ever level of sulphur dioxide in the air and pneumonia cases in Glasgow have trebled.
A spokesman for London's Emergency Bed Service said 235 people had been admitted to hospital in the last 24 hours and issued a "red warning" to prepare for more patients as thick fog continues to affect public health.
So far 90 people have died since the crisis began and the fog is not expected to lift for another 24 hours.
DIY masks recommended
The Ministry of Health warned those at most risk, such as sufferers of chest and heart complaints should "stay indoors and rest as much as possible".
The ministry's medical advisors said doctors should prescribe masks for vulnerable patients or "do-it-yourself masks" such as thick cotton gauze or a scarf around the mouth and nose.
General advice to the public was also issued:
Only use coke or other smokeless fuel, do not bank up coal fires at night, don't burn rubbish or light bonfires, keep windows closed and draughts out.
Icy roads
The fog had now spread to 22 counties of England making driving conditions extremely hazardous with visibility varying from zero to 50 yards (45 metres).
Black ice was another danger affecting London, most of the south, East Anglia, the Midlands and Yorkshire, according to the Automobile Association.
One AA spokesman described the icy stretch of road on the A12 near Chelmsford as "a battlefield" after a series of minor accidents.
A scene of traffic jams, queues, breakdowns and abandoned cars recalls a picture not seen in this country for ten years when Britain was smother by the so-called Great Smog of 1952 that claimed some 4,000 lives.
Since then the Clean Air Act has been enforced but only dealt with the smoke emissions and not the discharge of sulphur dioxide.
The level of smoke in London's atmosphere today was two and a half times higher than for an average winter day - and the level of sulphur dioxide was seven times higher, according to figures produced by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research
To watch footage of the fog, click the video link below;

Funny Signs

South Mimms Services

South Mimms services is a motorway service station on the M25 motorway near London. It is owned by Welcome Break.
The modern service area is just off the A1 at Bignell's Corner, where it meets the M25. It was constructed in 1986 as the first service area on the M25, and was planned to be one of four Motorway Service areas on the London Orbital motorway (of which only three have, at present been built, the other two being at Thurrock and Clacket Lane).
The building was completely destroyed by fire in August 1998, as a result of deep frying food and lack of sufficient fire suppression system - subsequent papers have been written detailing lessons learned from this event. The siting of the motorway service area has often been criticised, as it is at a heavily congested motorway-motorway intersection.
Being situated in a rural location on a major hub of the UK's transport network, South Mimms services provides more variety of interest than just petrol and chips... including a much more sinister side as a meeting point for illegal activities such as gun and drug deals.
In 2004, author Roger Green produced a book called Destination Nowhere where he attempts to capture everyday life at a Motorway Service Area, finding that far from being dull he is captivated by how unusual the whole experience is.
South Mimms Services was immortalised in a poem by poet Luke Wright which was performed during Aisle 16's homage to John Betjeman. The poem is entitled "Mimms O'Clock", a pun on the Pimms adverts at the time.
South Mimms has been a regular 'drop off' point for asylum seekers and illegal immigrants coming to the UK on HGVs for years, as it one of the first stops an HGV driver may make having driven from the Channel Ports.
A man from East London known as the 'Jihad Plumber' was arrested at the service area while attempting to buy weapons such as a rocket launcher in November 2005.
In 2001 police seized drugs worth £12 million pounds from an HGV which had entered the UK from Spain.
South Mimms Services is possibly unique in being a service station on a national cycle route, in this case National Cycle Network route 12, the section in Hertfordshire from Hadley Wood to Hatfield, Hertfordshire.

Who Am I? - Saturday's Answer

The Answer to Saturday's
Who Am I?
Jack Staw