I like the way they cater for all ages - the children and the grown-ups - so that the whole event turns into a family affair.
Many of the elements of a good picture book can be found up there on stage under the bright lights:
1. A simple, strong story
Most panto is based on a fairy tale or a ballet. Whatever your story theme, remember to make the essence of the story simple and obvious for young children. At their heart, good picture books have a strong story-line.
2. Evil villains and good heroes
Panto is extreme in this way. The baddies are really bad, and the goodies are really good. Whatever your version of good and bad - make it clear.
3. Great character names
Panto is brilliant for outlandish names. Widow Twankey, Buttons the groom, Hanki and Panki, Carrie Bucket.
|Mr Lovelybuns, from the Claude books by Alex T. Smith - one of my favourite character names!|
4. Jokes for the grown ups
Don't forget the adult who has to read your book over and over to their child (poor thing!). Try and think of something to keep their interest, as well as the child's. It could just be something small in the background:
|The witch's books in The Fairytale Hairdresser and Rapunzel|
Pantomimes are very clever about playing with a well-known genre - this can be a great source of jokes:
|The Looking Glass magazine in The Fairytale Hairdresser and Snow White|
Children love slapstick humour. It's simple and visual. So many picture books do this well - Dr Seuss, Richard Scarry and others were masters of the genre. I also love the Hairy Maclary books for this:
|Dogs going mad in Hairy Maclary, Sit by Lynley Dodd|
Lauren Beard and I spend a long time making detailed scenes for children to spot characters. Detail can create a talking point and encourage that feeling of sharing a story together:
|The high street in the Fairytale Hairdresser|
Who doesn't like dressing up? Panto is fab for fancy, frilly, gender-swapping, crazy costumes.
|The Fairytale Hairdresser and Snow White|
In panto this is often a big dance/song. The page turns of the book should lead up to a fun or exciting climax:
|The winter ballet from The Fairytale Hairdresser and the Sugar Plum Fairy|
Awww. Almost every picture book has a snuggly, cosy, happy ending.
|Rapunzel getting married|
Oh yes it is!
|The latest Fairytale Hairdresser is based on The Nutcracker ballet|