For theatre... online, non-professional, amateur
P.A.N.T.O.M.I.M.E. a Writer’s Guide (Panto Special)

P.A.N.T.O.M.I.M.E. a Writer’s Guide (Panto Special)


Pantomime and audience participation go hand in hand. They want to be included. Everyone loves to hate a villain and audiences should be encouraged to boo and hiss the baddie – my baddies always goad the audience. One tip is to write an “Oh, no it’s not!” towards the beginning of a script to get the audience to react with the characters and involved in the action as soon as possible. The ghost gag is a well-loved tried and tested pantomime routine. This can be adapted to suit your script – I scripted a gorilla in Jungle Book the Pantomime and a monster rat in Robinson Crusoe, so consider your storyline and setting. The comedy business for this routine should be well-scripted – looking behind, left and right, walking around in search of the ‘ghost’ etc. If you make it fun then children and adults will enjoy shouting “It’s behind you!” and “Oh, yes it is!” with gusto.
The audience participation song (or ‘songsheet’) towards the end of the panto is also a favourite. Suggest songs relevant to the storyline to encourage everyone to join in the singing and actions, though as a writer you won’t have the final say on song choices – that is left to the director or musical director of the group staging the production. Scripting this front-of-cloth scene also gives the stage crew time to set the stage for the finale and allows the rest of the cast time to change into their walk-down costumes.

Participation is an essential part of pantomime.


We all love a good adventure – OH, YES WE DO! Audiences can switch off from the real world for a couple of hours and be transported to Morocco with Dick Whittington, sail the high seas with pirates in search of treasure or join the hero as he embarks on a quest to snowy mountains to save the princess.
Robinson Crusoe, Pirates and the Caribbean Queen has plenty of adventure both on board ship and on the Caribbean island of Montserrat. If you’re writing a pantomime featuring pirates, ensure your swashbuckling cast is both fearsome and funny. I speak like a pirate when I am writing pirate dialogue – ARRRRR. Get your pirate villain to interact with the audience – “Avast there, me hearties, oi’ll sort ye lily-livered layabouts out later.”
The audience should be encouraged to be a part of the adventure, get your lead comic or dame to ask them, “Do you want to come on an adventure with us?” The resounding response will invariably be YES!

Remember the main ingredients of a great adventure are: action, romance and a dangerous quest. A panto audience will expect something out of the ordinary.

N.ew Ideas

Whilst there are many versions of Cinderella, Aladdin, Sleeping Beauty and other well-loved pantomimes, it is good to add new ideas to existing stories or create something new entirely. A few years ago, myself and Bob Heather collaborated on Sheer Luck Holmes the Pantomime, based loosely on the character Sherlock Holmes. The usual characters were there, albeit in a different guise – Watson now Dotty Watson the housekeeper (Dame), Sheer Luck Holmes (Comic lead), Baskerville his faithful hound and a wonderful Victorian villainess, Mary Arty. Yes, it’s a different title, but has all the elements and comic devices of a traditional pantomime.
As a writer I was inspired by, and applaud, writers Louise Beresford and Anna Spearpoint for their alternative panto The Fairytale Revolution: Wendy’s Awfully Big Adventure. Based on the traditional Peter Pan story it subverts many pantomime stereotypes and with an all-female cast of four, played at Battersea’s Theatre 503 to resounding audience reviews.

Take a risk with your writing and think outside of the box…

T.raditional stories retold

Many pantomimes are based on traditional fairy tales or folk lore such as Cinderella, Aladdin, Sleeping Beauty and Robin Hood. Don’t be put off from writing a Snow White, Sleeping Beauty or Treasure Island pantomime. Lazy Bee Scripts, Samuel French, Spotlight Publications, Smith’s Scripts and other publishers have a huge catalogue of panto titles. No two scripts will be exactly the same, so make your script stand out from the rest.
My Jack and the Beanstalk pantomime was initially rejected by Lazy Bee Scripts as they had a huge catalogue of pantos with that title, ergo a script with that title would need to differentiate substantially from the traditional format. After I got over the initial writers’ shock of having my work rejected, I re-read it and realised that it just wasn’t exciting enough. I thought carefully about taking Jack on an adventure and reworked the script so that it had a sufficiently different storyline. Jack’s Amazing Beanstalk Rocket has the traditional Jack and the Beanstalk storyline with Jack taking the cow to market etc. Jack is given a rusty toy rocket in exchange for the cow, cue Jack, “I was expecting a handful of beans.” Act two takes Jack and his family on an adventure in the beanstalk rocket – cue great song suggestions, a rapping robot, aliens and plenty of comedy.

Don’t rest on your laurels and don’t be afraid to change the location and adapt the storyline. As a writer you need to make your panto script stand out from the rest.

O.ver the top

With larger-than-life characters and comedy routines, pantomime is very much ‘in your face’. The fourth wall is broken as the villain, dame and other characters interact with the audience. When writing material for the dame, whether it’s Widow Twanky, Clementine Crusoe or Dame Trott, her mannerisms and actions should be over the top.
When writing jokes for pantomime consider your audience. A family pantomime should be suitable for family audiences, so don’t be tempted to script something that will cause offence. It should be more innuendo than smut. A few double entendre for the adults should go over the top of children’s heads and be swiftly followed with dialogue. The children will follow the action whilst adults chuckle at the joke.

Be outrageous but don’t outrage.


A pantomime doesn’t need to have magic tricks, but it should be magical for children and adults alike. From a writer’s point of view, aim to give the audience a story with wonderful characters, plenty of jokes and comedy routines. Once my scripts are finished they’re ready to be selected from the publisher’s catalogue of pantomimes by drama societies. The baton is then taken up by a director, actors and backstage team who deliver the set, bright costumes, big chorus numbers and any special effects to create a magical experience for their audiences. Sometimes a writer will get the opportunity to take their script from page to stage. I was fortunate to direct Jungle Book the Pantomime and convey my enthusiasm and ideas to the set builders, costume team and cast. They brought my script to life. The audiences loved the characters and song choices. It was as magical for me as the audience and cast – I even dressed the part.

Pantomime should be a magical escape from the real world.


It goes without saying that writers need imagination to write. Without imagination we couldn’t create interesting characters and scenarios to tell our stories. As writers our aim is to captivate the audience. Whilst most pantomimes have the framework of a traditional fairy tale or folklore, a writer has the imagination to expand on that. Traditional characters can be developed, new ones added, and exciting new adventures created. I used the basis of the Dick Whittington story for Galloping Goose the Pantomime. I transferred the action to Victoria BC in Canada and changed the names of the characters, but the basic storyline is similar.

Read a few fairy tales and see where your imagination takes you as a writer.


Whilst panto may appear to be complete mayhem to the uninitiated, it isn’t. A good pantomime consists of well-choreographed chase scenes and well-rehearsed comedy business. Many asides and bloopers are deliberate – I script ad-libs in my pantos to get the laughs. The following is from Robinson Crusoe, Pirates and the Caribbean Queen published by Lazy Bee Scripts.

Captain: We bain’t found anyone else. (Takes his hat off and holds it to his chest) An’my poor flippin’ flappin’ poopin’ pesky pirate pet parrot Pickle perished.
Clementine: (To Captain) That wasn’t easy to say was it?
Captain: No, it weren’t. That pesky script writer should be made to walk the plank, arrrrr.

Give the dame an umbrella as the Captain speaks and you’ve added visual humour.
Classic pantomime routines involving slosh have been toned down over the years but are very much part of the pantomime tradition. When writing a slosh scene, whether it’s decorating the Ugly Sisters boudoir or the dame baking a cake, keep the dialogue slick and ensure plenty of visual comedy.

Visual comedy is vital to pantomime – keep your routines slick.


Every aspect of a pantomime needs energy and pace. As a writer it is important to keep the momentum of your story. Remember that children may get unsettled easily if there is a lull in the story. Keep the romantic girl-meets-boy scene short and follow it with plenty of action or humour to keep your audience engaged, equally the comedy business should be slick.
As well-written and slick your script is, it is very much down to the actor’s performance on the night. Use your author production notes to convey information about comedy routines or comedy chases. Directors will ensure that the cast understand the concept and have plenty of rehearsal time. Think about the characters that will be delivering the high energy comedy routine and equip them with funny lines and mannerisms. Above all remember that visual humour is paramount.

Remember energy + pace = an engaged audience.

Happy writing…

Panto Playwrights (Panto Special)

Panto Playwrights (Panto Special)

Stuart Ardern – |
Stuart is the fiendish mastermind behind Lazy Bee Scripts.
In addition to the full-length pantomimes (in prose), frequently with original songs, he writes short pantomimes (generally in rhyming tetrameters), and occasional bespoke pantomimes (for wealthy corporations). He also writes one-act plays, sketches and occasional youth theatre pieces.

Cheryl Barrett loves theatre, especially pantomime and has written, directed and acted in many productions over the years playing villain, Fairy Godmother and the dafter one of the comic duo. A prolific writer, Cheryl has over a hundred published scripts, including pantomimes, full-length and one-act plays, monologues, comedy sketches and plays for schools. Cheryl is published with Lazy Bee Scripts and Spotlight Publications.

Paul began writing pantomimes around eight years ago and, to date, has written five full-length scripts. Two of them, A Long Time Ago (Aladdin in space) and Drac and the Beanstalk (Jack and the Beanstalk with vampires) are based on traditional stories but the other three, Once Upon A Time, Happily Ever After and The Good, The Bad and The Panto are original. Paul regularly directs his own scripts and plays dame with his local amateur theatre group.

James Barry writes and directs professional pantomimes (and other things), notably for the Princes Hall Theatre in Aldershot and the Winchester Theatre Royal (where his most recent show got a five-star review in The Stage). His pantomimes (and a few other shows) are available to amateur groups through Lazy Bee Scripts.

Peter Bond has written four full-length pantomimes: Cinderella, Old King Cole, The Magic Tinderbox and, with Bob Heather, The King’s New Clothes. He has also written three one-act pantos: Mr Scrooge, Jack and the Beantin, Budget Cinderella as well as eleven ten-minute rhyming pantos. These are mostly published by Lazy Bee Scripts. e retired as a teacher several years ago in order to devote more time to writing.

Bradford & Webster –
Toby Bradford & Tina Webster have written eleven pantomimes: Rapunzel, Treasure Island, Robin Hood, Sinbad, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, Dick Whittington, Jack and the Beanstalk, Sleeping Beauty and The Prince’s Quest.
Productions of Bradford & Webster pantomimes have won awards at both local and Noda regional level. Reviews: “high-octane romp”, “packed with originality”, “laugh-a-minute”, “brilliantly funny”, “beautifully written”, “a warm, sparky, engagingly daft romp”, “full of surprises”, “good, old-fashioned panto”.

Dave lives and works in the Kingdom of Fife and has written, produced and acted in pantomimes (mainly as the dame) for forty years.
He is the proprietor of Spotlight Publications, which employs over fifty writers and has published 131 pantos, eighteen of which are Dave’s own. His latest offering, Robin Hood & the Babes In Verse, is available now.

Leonard Caddy has written a host of successful scripts performed all over the country and abroad. His style faithfully follows traditional stories full of comedy situations, panto essentials and introduces new and original characters and intriguing sub-plots. Having made his first appearance at the back end of a mule, his lifetime of involvement means he understands panto from the bottom up. He’s played good, bad, slick and sloppy parts, and established a solid reputation as a dame.

Ben Crocker specialises in providing traditional pantomime scripts with a modern feel. Written in short snappy sentences, Ben’s scripts are very popular, funny and actor-friendly. They are designed to appeal to all ages and free PDF reading copies are available via his website. Along with immaculate writing and craftsmanship, Ben is very relaxed about permitting companies to make changes. With nearly three hundred productions in seventeen countries this year, he is definitely getting something right!

Peter, who died in 2009, was an accomplished actor with many stage and TV credits. He wrote his first panto in the mid-70s, since when, he followed a dual career as actor and writer. His scripts combine strong storylines and traditional comedy. In 1998 Peter adapted his portfolio for NODA members. These revised editions have clear stage directions, detailed notes on incidental music and song suggestions, casting tips, and a breakdown of requirements for scenery, costumes and props.

Chris Denys & Chris
Co-writers Chris Denys (Late principal of Bristol Old Vic Theatre School) and Chris Harris, who passed away in 2014, wrote nine pantomimes for Bristol Old Vic. These pantos are now published and available for hire, they include: Aladdin, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Mother Goose, Dick Whittington and Babes in the Wood.

Stephen has been involved with both professional and amateur pantos for over thirty years, having directed every major title. He turned to writing in the early 90s and his work has been performed in the West End and USA. Scripts include full production notes and can be performed simply or lavishly, depending on facilities. Both traditional and modern sequences are found throughout each pantomime with a large amount of audience participation.

Alan P
Alan is one of today’s most popular pantomime writers, with well over two hundred productions choosing one of his scripts again this season. Whilst traditional in style, his pantomimes are aimed firmly at present day audiences, being packed with hilarious up-to-date comedy, original, fast-moving, flexible and are also revised and updated annually.
All available from Stage Right Creative, visit the above website for full details of Alan’s twenty scripts, plus photos and reviews from previous productions.

Richard has been writing pantomime scripts for over twenty-five years and has had over one hundred professional productions performed. Richard has been resident Dame, writer and director at The Theatre Royal in Norwich for nineteen years and will next year achieve over one thousand performances in the same venue! His scripts are very popular with amateur societies blending the tradition of old routines with the Twenty-First Century kick he has become known for!

Ron Hall has been involved with the world of amateur panto for over twenty-five years. Familiar with limited facilities, small stages and little cast experience, his scripts ensure his pantomimes are easy to perform, fun and box-office successes. NODA has a choice of sixteen pantomimes by Ron Hall. Scripts contains suggested song titles and a properties list.

Bob has written and co-written over two dozen traditional family pantos, all published by Lazy-Bee Scripts. They contain lighting cues, props lists and notes etc. and are regularly up-dated. He has directed many pantomimes, and gives pantomime talks and workshops.
Bob is co-author of two books for pantomime writers, and has a panto cow and various other pantomime animals for hire, along with a selection of props, including a growing beanstalk.

Bob Heather & Cheryl Barrett – |
Bob Heather and Cheryl Barrett have written eleven pantomimes together. Their scripts are traditional family pantomimes, as well as pantos with a modern twist, like Sheer Luck Holmes. All are suitable for amateur and professional companies. Bob and Cheryl’s scripts contain lighting cues, props lists, author’s notes, technical notes and suggested songs. They have written two books; Pantomime Writers Book of Gags and Routines and More Gags and Routines For Pantomime Writers.

Nigel’s modern pantomime scripts have been used for professional seasons at venues such as the huge SSE Arena and in London’s West End, plus by a plethora of amateur groups across the UK and worldwide.
Dubai, Kuwait, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia and America. His scripts are lively and relevant to today’s audiences and are constantly being updated.

Emma and Samantha act, choreograph, write, produce and direct for a drama group called The Warren. They have been involved with panto for over twenty-five years and have The Wizard of Oz Pantomime, Peter Pan the Pantomime, Rapunzel, The Snow Queen, and Beauty and the Beast published with Spotlight Publications. Emma attended Sylvia Young Theatre School and has a diploma in Acting from LAMDA. Samantha reviews for Sardines magazine and has written several musical shows.

Richard Lamming
Richard writes original songs and scores for musicals, creating material to fit the script. This includes digitally orchestrated backing tracks and sheet music. He started Pantomime Songs Ltd. because he feels all pantos and musicals should have specially written songs that fit the story, told by the characters – not just well-known pop songs. His catalogue includes ballads, rap, reggae, rumba and rock. He can also rework lyrics to suit specific characters.

Limelight Scripts are UK publishers and rightsholders of quality pantomime scripts. They offer traditional titles such as Cinderella, Aladdin, Dick Whittington, etc. As well as more modern titles, such as Merlin and Rapunzel. All scripts are updated on an annual basis to keep them fresh and relevant. Limelight have recently updated their website, which now offers secure browsing and purchasing. If you have any questions or queries, please get in touch with Jackie or Dennis.

It was as a member of Wotton Dramatics Society that Mark discovered his love of theatre, particularly pantomime. He was MD at Oldham Coliseum Theatre for almost a decade, working with people like Les Dennis and Ken Dodd. He now runs his own PR company. Mark has also had the pleasure of co-writing a number pantomimes with Roy Barraclough MBE (who died in 2017) and John Jardine.

Robert Marlowe spent over fifty years in professional panto, directing as well as playing the baddie in many of them. This experience enabled him to write fully detailed scripts which add a professional gloss to amateur productions. Robert’s scripts contain detailed production notes including character analysis, advice on costumes, set etc. and instructions for the knockabout comedy for his comic duos.

Marsden &
Keith Marsden and Geoffrey Rundle hail from Yorkshire and have over fifty years’ panto experience, writing their first script, Dick Whittington, in 1944. Sadly Geoffrey has passed away but his magical touch lives on in their panto catalogue. Marsden and Rundle appeared on stage together until 1988 with Keith playing the comic and Geoffrey playing the dame. Their valuable experience is reflected in their scripts.

In 2019 Philip celebrated his decade as a pantomime dame becoming one of the most in-demand dames in the UK appearing with, among others, Su Pollard, Janine Duvitski, Mark Little and Linda Lusardi. He has written pantomimes professionally for twenty years and his scripts have been performed around the world. His pantos are traditional with a modern twist, featuring plenty of roles (always strong roles for women) and some refreshing takes on the well-loved stories.

Apart from writing the longest running pantomime ever (Nottingham Theatre Royal, 1981), John has written almost two hundred professional pantos, with a production of Cinderella performed at the London Palladium. The Morley pantomimes that NODA provide have been revised for amateur productions, with almost no scenery or costume changes, but with ample work for small parts and the chorus.

Jack Northcott writes family-friendly, flexible scripts for groups of all ages and sizes. Need extra characters or different scenery? No problem! He’ll adapt the script for you. Plus there’s a host of helpful suggestions on his website and throughout the script, if you need a bit more guidance for your show. Otherwise, let your imagination run wild. Either way, you’ll have audiences laughing and enjoying every moment with a Jack Northcott script.

Robert is a popular pantomime dame, playing the role for over ten years with some of Britain’s favourite performers. His panto scripts have been performed by amateur companies around the world. They can be bought directly, of the shelf, or tailored to suit your needs. Robert has written and directed for Haven Holidays’ summer panto touring teams and his work has also been produced professionally across the UK.

Luke is a young writer from Merseyside, whose scripts are for gutsy theatre groups keen to take pantomime into the Twenty-First Century. While he retains old panto traditions, Luke adds his own modem twist and fresh approach to the age-old plots and characters. Though he gives the audience exactly what they expect from a panto, he provides it in an unexpected and amusing fashion.

Reece Sibbald is a writer of tried-and-tested, fresh, vibrant and funny panto scripts throughout the UK and further afield, and has a knowledge and understanding of panto that is second to none. He has performed, written and directed alongside many of the UK’s top pantomime stars including The Chuckle Brothers and five consecutive seasons as lead comic at Blackpool’s North Pier. His innovation and creativity puts a modern twist on the traditional pantomime tales.

Long &
Peter Long and Keith Rawnsley are a famous comedy-writing duo with an impressive list of credits including Week Ending, The News Huddlines and The Two Ronnies, plus an association with producer John Lloyd that also took in Not The Nine O’Clock News and Spitting Image. With a long tradition in comic writing, Keith and Peter have made the eagerly awaited addition of pantomimes to their repertoire.

Norman, who passed away in 2016, is one of amateur theatre’s most popular authors. He wrote his first stage show almost sixty years ago and, in his mid-twenties, made his professional debut appearing in pantomime with Ken Dodd. He has lectured on the genre’s history, published a book on the evolution of pantomime (with the title Slapstick and Sausages) and was in constant demand as an after-dinner speaker.

Award-winning children’s writer, David Swan, creates scripts that have all the best elements of traditional pantomime. Plots are well structured and easily understood. Staging can be simple, using the minimum number of scene changes and requiring no expensive effects, yet can be as elaborate and spectacular as you wish. David’s panto-mimes also have comprehensive production notes.

TLC Creative have been writing together for over a decade. With their pantomimes performed around the world they offer over a dozen titles ranging from the traditional (e.g. Aladdin and Cinderella) to something a little different (e.g. Goldilocks, Knight Fever and Sinbad the Sailor)
TLC’s pantos are packed with gags, visual routines and plenty of audience participation. Between them, TLC have almost a century of writing, acting, directing, and comedy experience.

Colin Wakefield & Kate Edgar –
Colin Wakefield has written twenty pantomimes and family musicals with composer Kate Edgar. With Roger Leach he wrote On Your Honour and Audience With Murder, and the thriller Sleep No More with David Gillespie.
Kate Edgar has composed songs and music for over thirty pantos and stage musicals and was MD for the Olivier Award-winning Return to the Forbidden Planet. She is also a theatre director and teacher..

Tom Whalley Pantomimes presents an ever-expanding collection of award- winning scripts specially crafted with all the traditional gags audiences love with hilarious, modern twists. After launching in 2017, Tom’s scripts have been performed by hundreds of amateur and professional theatre companies and have been enjoyed by countless thousands of families across the world accruing glowing reviews, accolades and awards in the process. The annual struggle to find the perfect pantomime script? It’s behind you.

Peter has been a member of Faringdon Dramatic Society since 1988 and has now written eleven pantomimes, most of which are available from Josef Weinberger. All have premiered locally and three have won the Oxfordshire Drama Network Pantomime Competition. He has also written several one-act plays, one of which, Nighthawks, won the ODN One Act Play Competition.
Full details and synopses of all these can be found on Peter’s website.