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Pantomime terms and techniques

By London Theatre Direct
Monday 14 May 2018

In celebration of the new Snow White pantomime that will be premiering this Christmas, we have compiled a list of mime vocabulary, terms and techniques to help you better appreciate this exquisite art form.

The word pantomime (known as panto for short) comes from the Latin word pantomimes and specifically refers to "gestures that are used to support a theme."

The word mime, however, is derived from the Greek word mimesis, which means "to imitate an activity." A mime performer was once referred to as a mummer, which comes from the Middle English word mum to mean silent.

Mime is a very common art form that can be found in busking and in street performances. Popular mimes include pretending to be trapped in an invisible box, climbing an invisible rope or ladder, pretending to lean against a wall, and fighting against strong winds. The mime in which the actor struggles against the wind is often performed using an umbrella, which turns inside out for comedic effect.

Pantomime and mime both involve similar concepts of silence, gestures and movements to create the illusion of reality. However, the purpose of a pantomime is to tell a story, whereas a mime is a much more specific, single action. Thus, a pantomime is made up of a series of mimes and normally follows a simple storyline to ensure that the audience understands what's going on. The story must also have a beginning, middle and end.

tableau is a living picture featuring one or more characters that remain in a static position. Tableaus are not only found in pantomime and mime, but are also commonly used in plays when transitioning between scenes. Often times, a scene in a play will still be taking place while characters in the background remain frozen in a tableau as they wait for the spotlight to shine on them to start the new scene.

gesture is a movement of any part of the body that helps to express an idea. An example would be pretending to unscrew a cap from a jar. When miming interaction with an object, it's important to take heed of consistency, a term that prescribes how an imaginary object must remain the same size in order to maintain the illusion.

cross is when the actor moves from one side of the stage to the other, while an illusionary walk is when the actor walks in place. The latter can be either a profile walk or pressure walk. profile walk is when the performer walks to the side in profile, whereas a pressure walk is best seen from the front or back.

Exaggerated resistance is when an actor makes an action more definite and sharper in order to create the illusion of physics, such as the tension when pulling on a rope or the struggle to lift a heavier object. Exaggerated expressions and gestures are also used to help add to the illusion of resistance. Angled eyebrows paired with an open mouth indicate surprise, whereas squinted eyes and an emphasised frown can allude to lifting heavy weights or objects.

Snow White, which stars Dawn French and Julian Clary, is set to premiere at the London Palladium on 8 December 2018, just in time for the holidays! It follows the success of the Palladium's two previously staged pantomimes, Dick Whittington and Cinderella, both of which received rave reviews. It will run for a limited time until 13 January 2019.

Are you dreaming of a Snow White Christmas? Book your tickets now and treat yourself and your family to the best gift of the season! And be sure to keep an eye out for all these panto terms in action!


Purchase your Snow White tickets here. Book early to avoid disappointment.

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