How to Plan a Christmas Pantomime for Senior Care

How to Plan a Christmas Pantomime for Senior Care

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A Pantomime (or 'Panto' for short) is a traditional British Christmas play. Christmas Pantomimes are immensely popular in the U.K. and deeply rooted into British culture. They are so joyful and entertaining! This is a wonderful tradition that is well worth embracing in senior care homes.
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A Pantomime (or 'Panto' for short) is a traditional British Christmas play. Despite the name, pantomimes do not involve any ‘miming’.

Pantos are based on children's fairy tales and are designed to make you laugh! They are characterized by fancy costumes, slapstick comedy, rhymed dialogues, cross-gender actors, singing, dancing and plenty of audience involvement.

Christmas Pantomimes are immensely popular in the U.K. and deeply rooted into British culture. They are so joyful and entertaining! This is a wonderful tradition that is well worth embracing in senior care homes.

6 Benefits of a Christmas Pantomime

Pantos are so much fun to prepare and perform! All you need is an assortment of fun-loving people with the sole purpose of making people laugh, sing and be merry. 

  • Pantomimes provide a wonderful end-of-year social occasion for residents, staff, friends and relatives.
  • Intergenerational: pantos appeal to all ages - make sure to invite children along to provide even more joy and entertainment.
  • Bolster teamwork as you plan, rehearse and perform this fabulous event!
  • There are no strict rules to follow, anything goes! Settings and costumes are left to the imagination; the more outrageous the better. 
  • Inexpensive: you don’t need expensive settings or costumes - you will be amazed at what you can make and create!
  • Delight your audience and lift spirits!

How to Plan a Pantomime

You need enthusiastic people willing to commit themselves to the event; staff, volunteers and friends. You will be amazed at how many talented people there are in your workplace! Start by:

  1. Arranging a meeting with your manager to propose your idea. 
  2. Hold a meeting with staff, volunteers and friends to map out the event. Invite relatives of residents to help.
  3. Advertise the pantomime roles. Announce the performance roles on your monthly newsletter. Staff from all departments should be invited to apply: kitchen, garden, office, and nursing staff. The panto Narrator selected must be enthusiastic and exuberant to engage with the audience. 
  4. Establish the duration of the show: the rule of thumb is about one hour: 20 minutes each for the first part, second part and intermission. Sometimes it may go a little longer, be flexible.
  5. Delegate tasks; you need all the help you can get!
    1. Stage setting and decoration. Decorate according to the fairytale’s theme and get residents involved.
    2. Sound, light and music. 
    3. Seating arrangement and printed lyrics for the audience
    4. Hot or cold beverages and food (if any). 
    5. Cleaning up after the event. 
  6. Establish a rehearsal time that suits all actors (difficult but not impossible). You will need to rehearse at least twice a week.
  7. Pantos should be interactive.The Narrator will entice the audience to: boo the villains, sing, clap, cheer, and warn the hero.

5 Traditional Pantomime Gimmicks

Below are some peculiarities common in traditional pantos. You may or may not add them to your Panto script (sometimes pantos specify them already). This is totally optional!

  • The principal female lead is played by a male and vice-versa.
  • At least one male character is dressed in drag. 
  • The panto’s narrator (any gender), is traditionally dressed as a Good Fairy and of course overdressed and over made-up. 
  • A ‘celebrity’ always makes an appearance. e.g. Lady Gaga or Superman, Liberace, Dame Edna Everage, etc.
  • There is usually an ‘animal’ in the show (two people dressed up as a horse or donkey) being nonsensical.

3 Christmas Pantomime Scripts

Here are 3 Christmas Pantomimes to try!
More Christmas Pantomimes can be found here.

Making it work

There is no need for auditions, casting should be simple. For instance, the villain of the play should be someone who enjoys being clownish because in the role he or she should be ridiculously over the top. If you don’t feel confident casting actors, show the script to willing contenders so they can pick roles themselves. 

Rehearsals make it perfect, don’t underestimate the importance of rehearsals, hence this article more than twelve weeks before Christmas!

Promote the Pantomime heavily for a couple of weeks before the date, As the saying goes: the more the merrier!

Whether the production is simple or fancy, your Panto will leave a lasting impression. It will be remembered as a festive celebration that delivered a good dose of Christmas cheer to young and old and who knows - you may have just started an annual Christmas tradition! 

Good Luck!

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