The Capitol Theatre at Fort Edmonton Park is proud to present another vintage entertainment experience. The Christmas Pantomime is an all-time favourite family spectacle that dates back to the late 1800s. The Pantomime or
“Panto” was initially developed in the United Kingdom as a Christmas tradition. It took its inspirations from a fusion of the Italian “Commedia dell’ Arte” or “comedy of the artists”, a popular form of improvised visual comedy involving dance, acrobatics and buffoonery, and the French “Harlequinade”, a stylized derivative of Commedia dell’ Arte based on sketches and comic dances that involved the character “Harlequin”, popular in Paris fairs.
The Harlequinades eventually died out and Pantomime stories such as Jack and the Beanstalk and Cinderella began to dominate. Pantomimes also became more and more elaborate, with spectacular scene changes, beautiful costumes and huge casts. Sometimes 600 actors would perform in one pantomime in the same evening. The most elaborate Pantomimes took place at Drury Lane Theatre in London. The comic chases and “business” that emerged from these productions eventually became known as “slapstick”, still a very important element in modern Pantomimes.
To this day, children and adults visit their local theatre to be dazzled by Pantomimes. The Capitol Theatre is now one of those theatres showcasing this British tradition throughout the holiday season.