Want to invoke boos and hisses aplenty? Here’s how
In our December issue, we’ve been looking back at the very colourful history of pantomime (oh yes, we have). And the best part in panto, as we all know, is the baddie. You can keep your garish frocks and colourful tights; if you want a part you can really get your teeth into, it has to be a pantomime villain.
The first panto villain is generally accepted to be the part of the demon king, who played against Dan Leno’s Victorian dame in Mother Goose. The demon king offers Mother Goose eternal youth and beauty in return for her golden-egg-laying goose. And thus, a star (baddie) was born. Panto has seen numerous other villains since, from Captain Hook to Dick Dastardly, Abnazar to the Evil Queen in Snow White.
If you fancy yourself as an evil villain, here are a few tips on how to get started:
Have a catchphrase
David Leonard, who played the villain for 27 years in an unbroken run at York Theatre Royal, was famous for his catchphrase “Thwarted! I’m thwarted!”, sure to elicit cheers from every child in the front ten rows.
Get a good villainous laugh
Female villains often go with a witchy cackle, but we’re big fans of a deep and resonant “Bwa-hah-hah-hah-hah”. Best delivered over your shoulder as you exit, stage right.
Make sure your eyebrow game is good
An arch villain must have an arch eyebrow. As well as having well-groomed brows, you need to be able to use them to good effect. If you can already raise one at a time, a la Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara, you’ve got a good natural skills base to work from.
Grow a twirly moustache
A dramatic ‘tache with which to twirl is a sure sign of true evil. See: Captain Hook, whose moustache was only slightly less threatening than the lethal metalwork on the end of his arm.
Learn to swoosh a cape properly
A circling (preferably black) cape gathered in a large swoosh and then brought up to below the eyes is practically the international sign for ‘I am a baddie’. Extra points if the swoosh is delivered with some explosions and dry ice as you exit the scene.
Let the audience win
To really get a theatre full of kids up on their feet and shouting you need to throw them a bone occasionally by declaring regularly how you ARE the fairest of them all, or will DEFINITELY destroy the entire known universe in order that they can shout themselves hoarse in response with an “OH NO YOU WON’T!”
Read more about pantomime’s fascinating history in our December issue, which is in shops now.