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The UK’s Most Popular Pantomimes

5 min read

Connect Comfort and Uplift

5 min read

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2020 has left nothing untouched; pantomimes included. Sadly, most of us can’t take part in our annual, festive tradition of going to a theatre with our loved ones this year. So we’ve decided to get nostalgic instead!

We’ve used Google search data to reveal the UK’s favourite and most popular pantomimes.

 

Top 10 pantomimes in the UK

~ 1. Snow White

~ 1. Dick Whittington

    2. Cinderella 

    3. Aladdin

    4. Sleeping Beauty 

    5. Jack and the Beanstalk

    6. Beauty and the Beast 

    7. Peter Pan

    8. Robin Hood 

    9. Goldilocks and the Three Bears

 

 

Pantomimes are eponymous with British Theatre and traditionally take place around Christmas time, and typically feature a hero, heroine, a villain, a comic, and plenty of other characters. 

 

We’ve taken a deep dive into the top three pantos – Dick Whittington, Snow White, and Cinderella – to look at the history and origins of the top three pantomimes to understand what it is that makes them so loved and popular with Brits.

 

To learn more about the history of pantomimes and the importance of pantomime, you can visit Blackpool Grand Theatre’s blog. Hosting pantomimes yearly, Grand Theatre sheds some light on Cinderella, Snow White and Dick Whittington below. 

 

Popular Pantomimes Cinderella

 

What is Cinderella?

Cinderella is one of the most well-known pantomimes in the world and is based on a traditional fairytale of the ‘rags to riches’ story of an orphaned girl living with her stepmother and evil stepsisters. The story focuses on Cinderella finding true love and happiness with the handsome Prince Charming, after going to a ball with the help of her Fairy Godmother. Although there have been various adaptations over the years, the main storyline has not changed. 

 

Who wrote Cinderella?

There are many origins of the Cinderella story, but the most well known, recognised and accredited origin story for Cinderella is French writer Charles Perrault’s Cendrillon. In fact, it is this version which was credited by Disney in its 1950 classic animated retelling. Another early known variant which is often considered as providing the origins of the story, dates back to around 7 BC / AD 23, with the story of Rhodopis; about a Greek slave girl who marries the king of Egypt.

 

When was Cinderella written?

Charles Perrault’s Cendrillon was written in 1697. However, Cinderella also appears in the Grimm Brothers tales, published in 1812, which is recognised as one of the other earlier editions of the well-known fairy tale.

 

Where is Cinderella set?

Cinderella is traditionally set in France, as are a number of the traditional fairy tales, including Pinnochio and Beauty and the Beast. 

 

What does Cinderella mean?

Meaning ‘girl of little ashes’, originally taken from the story Cendrillon, the name Cinderella comes from early editions, which saw the titular female always working among the cinders of the fire.

 

What is Cinderella about?

The story of Cinderella follows the traditional plotline of a folktale, of unjust oppression being triumphed by remarkable fortune and reward. In simpler terms; a mistreated young girl is freed from her metaphorical chains by meeting a noble prince, whom she marries, leaving her forsaken situation and mistreated livelihood behind.

 

Characters in Cinderella

Cinderella

Ugly Stepsisters

Evil Stepmother

Fairy Godmother

Cinderella’s Mice

Prince Charming

Buttons

 

Popular Pantomimes Snow White

Snow White 

Who wrote Snow White?

The original story of Snow White was taken from the Brothers Grimm. You can read our article all about the history of Snow White here.

 

When was Snow White made?

The earliest appearances of Snow White dates back to 1812. In theatre, the first noted performance was in 1937 at the Carthay Circle Theatre.

 

What is Snow White about?

Snow White follows the story of a maiden with fair skin ‘as white as snow’ and raven black hair, who is described as the fairest in all the land. Her wicked and jealous stepmother, upon discovering this, attempts in vain to have her killed. Instead, the huntsman lets her escape, where she finds refuge with seven friendly dwarves. The Evil Queen finds her and tricks her into eating a poisoned apple, which puts her into a deep enchanted sleep where she is eventually awoken by true love’s first kiss.

 

Characters in Snow White 

Snow White

Seven Dwarves 

Evil Queen 

Prince

Magic Mirror

Huntsman

 

Dick Whittington 

Who is Dick Whittington?

Dick Whittington is a well-known tale and arguably one of the most recognised characters in pantomime. It follows the story of a young boy who is out to find his fortune, the story follows a ‘rags to riches’ storyline as Dick, with the help of his cat, helps rid a town of rats and is well rewarded for doing so. Although specific details of the story do vary, the main plot points are the same, with Dick and his trusty cat helping the King, with events finally leading to Dick marrying the princess. 

 

What is Dick Whittington about?

It is said that Dick Whittington is based on the real story of a famous mercer from Gloucestershire called Richard Whittington, who in English folklore, is said to have had a poverty-stricken childhood before finding his fortune in the selling of his cat. This story was first recorded in 1814. Richard Whittington lived in the time of Edward III, and so say, was rewarded by the monarch after his cat rid the King’s Palace of rats, that were discovered after the King had been at sea. 

 

However, reports vary, as some never credit Richard Whittington as actually owning a cat. Richard Whittington was in fact a highly successful trades merchant, selling fine silks and luxury materials to royalty and nobility. So successful was his enterprise, the Crown borrowed money from him, and eventually, he was recognised and rewarded for his services when he became Mayor of London in 1397. It is reported nowadays that the famous and well-loved pantomime Dick Whittington and his Cat is very loosely based on the character. 

 

Who wrote Dick Whittington?

Thomas Heywood is said to have penned the earliest known editions of folklore about Richard Whittington, dating back to 1656. 

 

Characters in Dick Whittington

Dick Whittington 

Tom the Cat

Good Fairy 

King Rat 

Alice, the King’s Daughter 

The King/Merchant

Pantomime Dame

Idle Jack (The Dame’s son)

 

 

Methodology

We used the Ahrefs keyword explorer tool to find the pantomimes with the most average monthly searches in the UK in 2020. We studied the search volumes for a list of most commonly attended panto titles, re-ordering them by popular search to create the top 10 (by a median of user searches around the terms panto and pantomime). Full search volumes and data are available by request.

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