Pantomime began as a type of traveling Italian street theatre known as Commedia dell'arte which came to Britain in the 16th century. Over the centuries it has developed into a festive entertainment that is still beloved by modern audiences. Discover more about the history of pantomime and it’s numerous well-loved stories and characters.
Interactive: Widow Twankey Costume by John Vicars for 'Aladdin', 1980
Pantomime gives the costume designer plenty of opportunity to devise absurd outfits for the comic characters. No pantomime is complete without the larger-than-life Dame, traditionally played by a man, whose outrageous dresses are 'sight gag' costumes, designed to make an audience laugh as soon as 'she' walks on stage.
Theatre & Performance
The Theatre and Performance collection was founded in the 1920s when a private collector, Gabrielle Enthoven, donated her extensive collection of theatrical designs, memorabilia, books and photographs to the Museum. Since then the collection has continued to grow and has provided a home for many other significant objects and archives. All areas of the live performing arts are represented in the collections, documenting both current practice and the history of the performing arts in the UK.