Is Printing Important to Panto?
Oh Yes It Is!
Christmas time heralds the onset of that most peculiarly British tradition: The Pantomime. From Cinderella to Aladdin to Mother Goose, families up and down the country gather together to make the trip to their local theatre where they can sing along, boo, hiss and giggle at spectacularly awful jokes.
So, what makes a brilliant pantomime? Yes, the usual things - stellar casting, audience participation, an array of fabulously extravagant frocks and about eighty thousand tonnes of glitter. But before we get to the show itself, donít forget about the print - posters and leaflets advertising the performance and the programme or brochure available to audiences at the show.
Why is the advertising so important? Audiences go to pantomime for different reasons. Some are attracted by the story (Cinderella habitually sells more tickets than any other title), some by the casting (from Nigel Havers to Katie Price thereís something for everyone if you look hard enough). Others simply attend every year and have a loyalty to the venue itself. Many venues that host pantomime contain at least five hundred seats and run the show for a minimum of four weeks with twelve performances a week. Thatís twenty four thousand tickets to sell - and a lot of potential audience to reach.
This is why leaflets and posters for the pantomime are so important. Only a modest proportion of the audience attend every year come what may; the rest of the audience is transient and picky. Each year, venues attempt to outdo their local rivals to catch the eye of surrounding households to entice them through their doors. The importance of pantomime is not simply down to the success of the show itself, but bear in mind that pantomime introduces many audience members to the theatre environment for the very first time. So for most venues their festive offering is the main method of capturing the eye of fresh audiences and once they are in the building, enticing them to attend other shows throughout the year.
Advertising print tends to follow an industry standard: The fonts are a variety of script styles and often appear to emit light. The cast, whether A list or Z list, are arranged in an edited crowd formation, the billing large and clear and the characters appearing to float either in clouds, atop beanstalks or amongst stars. The stories need no explanation or Ďblurbí, re-telling as they do age old classic fairy tales of which we are all familiar. It is, after all, the familiar that is so critical for this type of entertainment. Tradition is key and this extends to how the performances are advertised.
When the audience enters the theatre, the next piece of printing that they will encounter is the programme. The show programme is a far cry from the information pamphlet of the 19th Century. Nowadays, it is a piece of merchandise. High quality, glossy paper, full colour printing, Large in size, the modern pantomime programme feels decidedly like an activity book. Inside we find biographies for the creative team, actors and dancers, puzzles, stories, photographs and historical information and features. Putting all of this together is a herculean task, ensuring quality, clarity and attention to detail. All things that are relevant in any brochure, certainly - but for the pantomime, it must contain that extra bit of festive magic in addition to the rest of the package!
Yes, the family pantomime is so much about sparkle, magic, shouting, singing and belly laughs; but this is not where it ends. Behind all of the glitter, greasepaint and flashing lights there is a whole world of paper printing plugging away to make Britainís panto season a success.