Interview: University of York PantSoc on “Nostalgia”

Image Credit: York Uni PantSoc
Image Credit: York Uni PantSoc

Pantomime in general is a medium of theatre that most people are able to reminisce about because of school trips or family days out as a child. As a part of the Pantomime Society at University, what do you think of the wide assumption that Pantomime should only be targeted at children? What do you think it is about Pantomime that keeps it relevant to adults of 18 and over?

I think that pantomime is, above all, about having fun and not taking yourself too seriously, and that is something that everyone can understand and enjoy! The fact that pantomime is linked to memories of childhood theatre trips for many probably makes it more enjoyable to revisit as an adult, to relax for an evening and join in with the familiar chant of “It’s behind you!”. Our upcoming Week 2 show, Cinderella, is set in an American High School, where Cinderella is the new girl in a world of close cliques and evil Principals. I don’t think it gets more relevant to uni than that.


How much of an importance would you place onto the idea of nostalgia being a key factor in targeting Panto at an older audience?

Nostalgia is definitely a factor, as in a lot of ways our shows have similarity with the shows put on in theatres up and down the country everywhere. However, it’s by combining the feel-good traditions, like the big dance numbers and the ever present pantomime horse (keep an eye out for him in Cinderella!), with our cracking student-written scripts that use more, shall we say, contemporary sources of inspiration (keep an eye out for Back to The Future references) which make our shows truly special!


Whatever the target audience, it’s clear that the vast majority of Pantomimes are based on classic children’s stories, a topical reference being your upcoming production of Cinderella. Why do you think that this is the case?

Classic stories such as fairy tales like Hansel and Gretel or Sleeping Beauty provide a great foundation for a pantomime as they are usually known by most of the audience, so they can do a lot of the work setting the scene and introducing the characters before the show even begins! However too much familiarity can be boring and predictable – where’s the fun when you know the prince is going to come to the rescue? We usually put our own unique twist on traditional stories, so you never know who’s going to be the hero and who could be the unlikely villain…Cinderella is a perfect example; we have the usual glass slipper, and of course the Fairy Godmother, but when was the last time you saw a Fairy Godmother who liked to rob banks? I won’t spoil the plot, you’ll have to come and see for yourself!


What other, more “grown up” genres do you think could work within the context of Panto?

Regardless of genre all good drama should have variety; Cinderella definitely has some sad moments in it, and although everyone always lives ‘happily ever after’ most pantomimes aren’t always happy all the way through. As I’ve mentioned above we don’t shy away from using sources that are far from traditional; ‘The Hound of The Baskervilles’ was recently pitched as an idea, along with ‘King Arthur’ and ‘A Christmas Carol’, so I think that the general rule is “If it has a story, it can be a pantomime”!


Would you agree with the idea that a certain element of childishness is important to the definition of Panto as a genre of performance?

I wouldn’t call it childishness, but there is certainly a level of enthusiasm needed that makes a pantomime so enjoyable to watch, and as audience participation is encouraged it’s very hard not to feel a part of the action even when sitting in the audience. Childishness implies immaturity, and pantomime is one of the oldest theatrical traditions around, so there is nothing immature about it!


How much of an emphasis would you place on the idea of childishness and/or nostalgia in terms of being the performers themselves and creating a successful pantomime, either for children or students?

Speaking for myself, I don’t feel like performing pantomime at university has a connection with the shows I watched when I was younger. Being part of an audience is a great experience but it’s totally different to actually being part of such a large cast, which is truly fantastic. I’ve not found anything like it at university for being so inclusive, fun loving and supportive of all its members, and every single production I’ve taken part in over the last three years has been an absolute joy to be involved in. I am totally confident that Cinderella will be the same, and I’m so excited to reach next week!


Pantsoc Presents: Cinderella!

Thursday 16th, Friday 17th and Saturday 18th January (Week 2)

Tickets available every day on Vanbrugh stalls, 12 – 2, or online at

£4 advance/ £5 OTD students, £7 non-students.

Doors open at 19:00, the show begins at 19:30.