Pantomime is a branch of theatre in which the performer uses no voice but acts out the performance using only motion, body language and gesture. It is usually, but not always done, in white face. See also mime.
In the UK, pantomime (or panto) has come to mean a non-silent form of theatre, incorporating song, dance, buffoonery, and satire, traditionally performed at Christmas, with audiences consisting mainly of children. Pantomimes tend to be loosely based on traditional children's stories, and there is only a small number of basic themes and titles, the most popular being:
- Babes in the Wood (often combined with Robin Hood)
- Dick Whittington
- Jack and the Beanstalk
- Mother Goose
- Puss in Boots
- Sleeping Beauty
- The leading male character (the "principal boy") is played by a young woman.
- An older woman (the "dame") is played by a man in drag.
- There is a great deal of audience participation, including calls of "he's behind you", and "oh yes it is" or "oh no it isn't".