Saturday Realisations

Today I found out that a pantomime is not a harlequinade, and that an extravaganza is something else entirely. And not a burlesque either.

I still have no clue how a pantomime is supposed to work (in the middle of it all characters change into characters inspired by the commedia dell’ arte???). It doesn’t help that all authors who’ve written on this subject seem to assume that all of their readers have seen Christmas pantomimes and know what they are.

Fortunately, it seems I don’t have to write about pantomimes in the dratted d, as the Planchè play I want to discuss is allegedly an extravaganza. Now I just need to solve the riddle of the toy-theatre play … Among other dramatis personae, there is a doctor and a clown, but no Harlequin. There’s a tableaux at the end, but no proper transformation scene.

4 thoughts on “Saturday Realisations

  1. Laura Vivanco

    The modern British pantomime doesn’t have any commedia dell’arte in it at all. The description of them at Wikipedia (if you ignore the bit about their history) is quite clear. Just start here.

    Or the even shorter version is that they’re like musicals, but usually based on fairytales, with lots of silly jokes, cross-dressing, clowning around and audience participation.

  2. Sandra Schwab

    The problem is I have to work with older plays (and figure out to which genre they belong). In the late 18th and in the 19th centuries the harlequinade was part of the pantomime: Harlequin and Columbine’s love story was interwoven with the story of the pantomime, and at one point, the characters of the pantomime would be transformed into the characters of the harlequinade.

    The fairy-tale content of the modern British pantomime seems to be chiefly due to the influence of Planché, who frequently called his own works burlesques AND extravaganzas. (This is one of these occasions when I wish people would be somewhat more considerate of the poor academics of future generations!)

    To confuse matters further, the plays that were written specifically for performances in toy theatres, are based on pantomimes, but also contain elements of mummers’ plays.

  3. Laura Vivanco

    It sounds as though you’re trying to describe something while it’s mutating before your very eyes (so to speak). Tricky!

    This is one of these occasions when I wish people would be somewhat more considerate of the poor academics of future generations!

    Very true. Will nobody think of the poor academics? [The original phrase seems to be “Will nobody think of the children?” but I have no idea where it comes from. I think I first encountered it at the Smart Bitches’ so maybe it’s American. Why can’t people quote their sources when they use common phrases? Why? Will nobody think about the poor academics who like to know the sources of such phrases?]

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