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Monsters and the pantomime

MARSDEN, Robert (2020) Monsters and the pantomime. Palgrave Communications, 6 (36). ISSN 2055-1045

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Abstract or description

Monsters within British pantomime are ubiquitous creatures, from the ogre in the castle of Puss in Boots to the Giant at the top of the beanstalk, and as personified in the monstrous acts of Wicked Stepmothers, frightening Barons and diabolical henchmen. The popularity of pantomime means that it is often the first encounter that a child has with a monster in material form, sharing the same physical space: a theatre. Bruno Bettelheim argues that fairytales, from where many pantomimes are drawn, are our first negotiations with the monstrous. In pantomime, the audience are complicit in the act of finding, chasing and dealing with the monster, and the ethical positioning of this by writers and directors is paramount in guiding us to understand how we may deal with the ‘other’ in our own lives. This paper critically interrogates the threat posed by these monsters when invested with a materiality in performance. In the first instance, I explore the interplay between stage space and the representation of the monster and how this relates to my professional experience of directing over twenty-five professional pantomimes in the United Kingdom since 1999. Tracing this spatial dynamic between monster and audience to the medieval stage and the ludic dimension to the staging of the devils in the mystery play, the paper argues that there is a long-reaching historical antecedent to the staging of evil that informs and inspires spatial practices in modern-day pantomime. Key questions are: to what extent have pantomimes historically presented and rehearsed the threat posed by the monster in order to contain that threat?; What ethical considerations do producers, writers and directors now face in the contemporary pantomime? Finally, to what extent does the popular form of pantomime itself matter as a vehicle for enabling audiences both young and old to confront the monstrous Other?

Item Type: Article
Faculty: School of Creative Arts and Engineering > Humanities and Performing Arts
Depositing User: Robert MARSDEN
Date Deposited: 05 Mar 2020 16:18
Last Modified: 24 Feb 2023 13:58

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