Why do media text representing pantomimes look the way they do and how do they anchor meaning and construct audience?


In this essay I am going to analyse a range of media texts that represent my chosen subject, pantomimes, for example posters and documentaries. I will look at each text in detail discussing the mode of address, how technical and symbolic conventions convey meaning, and how an ideological representation is formed and anchored.  I will look at how the specific visual language/conventions construct an audience.  Finally I will look at how cultural ideology influence the text.

Firstly, one of the main ways theatre companies promote an upcoming pantomime is by creating promotional posters. For example, the Princess Theatre in Torquey and the Hull Theatre have existing posters advertising previous pantomimes. These posters normally contain playful, tongue in cheek language to attract their audience. The language they use on these posters normally reflects the sort of language that will be used in the pantomimes, as well as the style of them. They always contain bright, eye-catching colours so that they can attract your attention and the fonts are always very exciting and creative which also make it visually attractive. The style of the font can reflect what the product it is advertising is like, for example, the font used in Sleeping Beauty poster is very traditional and quite old fashioned. This could be because the story of Sleeping Beauty is an old fairytale that is hundreds of years old as it was written in 1697, therefore the style of the font represents the age of the story the pantomime is going to tell. This could then inform the consumers that the story is an old tale as the fonts style is not modern looking. The backgrounds of one of the posters includes the stereotypical curtains that are always in theatres. This is a key concept within pantomimes, therefore clearly shows the consumers what they should expect at the show; an iconic, bright, cheerful performance. The actors which are on the posters all represent their characters in the show. For example, the heroes are all smiling and the villains are glaring at the camera, which is represented on both the posters that I have chosen to analyse (Aladdin and Sleeping Beauty). This then allows the people who look at the posters to get an understanding of which characters are good and which are bad before going to see the pantomime. The actors are also all wearing the costumes that they will wear when they are on stage, because it helps people associate which characters are the protagonists and which are antagonists. For example, in the Aladdin poster, you can clearly tell who the Genie is as stereotypically, the Genie is blue due to him being portrayed like this in the 1992, Disney film, Aladdin. As the posters being very colourful, I would say that their target audience is more aimed at children between the ages of 5-14 because bright colours are more eye-catching so attract younger children. However, people over this age may go to pantomimes too but the posters may not appeal to them as much anymore and encourage them to go. Therefore there may be other forms of media that interest them which would make it seem more appealing to go to a pantomime such as television adverts. Overall, I think the target audience to go and watch a pantomime would be from 5-60+ because if you enjoy acting, dancing or singing they would appeal to you and if you like to watch a happy, fun show, the consumers would enjoy it too. The backgrounds of one of the posters includes the stereotypical curtains that are always in theatres.

Secondly, a form of media that is used to present and inform people about pantomimes is in television. In 2014 and 2015, a pantomime documentary called ‘Panto! Mayhem, Make Up and Magic’ was broadcasted on BBC 4. The programme was about a group of amateur actors from Nottington who performed the pantomime, Puss In Boots. It goes behind the scenes of the pantomime and you see the cast getting prepared and ready for the show; allowing you to get an inside scoop of what really happens backstage. The language used between the cast is very friendly and light-hearted which reflects the atmosphere behind the scenes as pantomimes are never serious. In some videos the cast are dressed in their costumes for the pantomime and sometimes they are in their normal clothes as they have not gone through costumes, hair and make up yet. When they are in their costumes, it portrays to the audience who they will be in the pantomime, so then they will be able to recognise who is who when they show clips of the cast on stage. However, when they are in their normal, day to day clothes, it allows the consumers watching the documentary to get to know the actors who are portraying the characters they love. This lets them get to know them and learn more about the cast as themselves; not just when they are in character. For example, the actors which play the horse: when they are in character you do not learn much about the actors themselves because of them is the head of the horse, and the other is the body of it, therefore, the cameraman who is filming them would not be able to ask them both questions and talk to them due to you not being able to see them. The setting that is included in the documentary includes the whole of the theatre, such as the stage, the seating area, the hair and make up room and dressing rooms for the actors. The cameraman then goes to each of the areas and films from different perspectives so that you can see all the parts of the stage that the cast use. They then go to each cast member and have a quick chat and get an update of what is currently going on; as if you were there yourself. The majority of the documentary uses diegetic sound as they are talking to one another on screen, which makes it seem more realistic as you get to hear what the cast are actually saying. The age of the cast members were all adults, which could make the show appeal more to adults because they could be aspiring actors or if they were the same age they may be able to relate to the aspirations they may have. Also, due to them all being older, it would appeal to the younger audiences as well because they could then see them as being their roles models and they could inspire them to be like them: a theatrical actor. Stereotypically, people think that theatre is for females, so due to this documentary showing that females and males are involved, it could encourage more males to take part in theatre; making them their role model too. The target audience for this television documentary would roughly be between 10-60+ because it is more about the behind the scenes of a pantomime, rather than the final finished product that is the actual pantomime show itself. Therefore, it may appeal to slightly older children more as they may find it interesting, and five year old’s would probably find it boring and may not understand the concept and content of the documentary. They would probably rather watch an actual pantomime because of the set and costumes as they are bright and colourful so grabs their attention, and in this they are sometimes not wearing all the dazzling costumes and are not always on the set.

Thirdly, on YouTube there is a mini documentary series called Pantomime People which is based around the stages the actors and cast and crew go through during the entire time a pantomime is going on. For example, the first documentary out of the six is one about the audition process, then the last one is about the closing night which is the last show. These six episodes can inspire young people to get involved in theatre, it does not mean they have to act, the could be part of the crew which includes controlling the sound and lighting and doing the hair and make up for the actors. Within the videos, diegetic and non-diegetic sound is used. Firstly, diegetic sound is used when the actors and crew are talking to the camera about what is currently happening which is important because you get to understand what everyone’s thoughts are at that moment in time. Secondly, non-diegetic sound is used when the person in the video is talking about something over another video, as if they are narrating what the video is showing. This is good because it gives the consumers a good understanding of what is happening within that video clip as they explain what is happening. Also, it is used when there is background music playing which has been added into the footage. This is used as it can set the scene, for example, the music that is playing in the videos tends to be lighthearted instrumental music playing because it represents pantomimes as they are fun and cheerful shows to go and watch. In my opinion, the target audience for these documentary style videos would be from 10-60+ because I think that the fact it is a documentary they would talk more formally therefore it may not appeal to children under the age of ten. This is because they may not understand the language that they are using so they would not find it interesting and some of the episodes do not include the cast being in costume and make up, therefore there would not be as many bright colours to attract younger people.

Another example is that with some large, well known theatre companies have adverts that are shown on television, and some have adverts put on to Youtube so that if people search the theatre company an advert may appear. For example, Pendle Productions has a few adverts on their Youtube channel which show clips of their upcoming pantomime or bits of previous shows which will clearly present them with what they should roughly expect to see on stage. Normally the adverts will contain small clips of the best parts of the pantomime or show because if the theatre company show their favourite clips, they will be the best bits to persuade someone to go and watch it. All the actors have all of their hair and make up done, and are all wearing their costumes because the adverts are only showing clips of the pantomime performances on stage. This is because they are advertising the show, not the rehearsal side behind it. Some may include rehearsals as they may try and show to the consumers how hard they have worked to reach the final finished product. Throughout the advert, only non-diegetic sound was used. This is due to the fact that there was only music added onto the video that represented the show which was playing. They may have chosen to do this as they thought that the song was a bold song that people would hear and then want to watch whatever was with the video or that the song conveys the meaning of the video. The clips of the performances are always very colourful as they need to try and catch the viewers attention. I would then suggest that the target audience would be from 5-60+ because a child would be attracted by it due to its colours. Then it would also appeal to adults as if they enjoyed watching pantomimes they would like the advert. As well as the clips of the pantomime content, adults would also pay attention to the text that appears on screen which tells them more information about the show, such as that there are opportunities to get involved with the theatre company and cast, and that it includes a professional cast.

Finally, if a there is a theatre company is popular enough, or if they have an outstanding show that gets recognised by reporters, they may get a news report on the performance; rating them on how good it is. For example, the newspaper, The Independent, reported on a pantomime in London, Snow White, and asked the cast to explain what in fact a pantomime is. They then explained what it is and it’s historical context behind it. On the article, there is a video which is where it is explained what a pantomime is. Under that, there is a few paragraphs that explains more of the history behind pantomimes, such as the fact that their used to be summer and Easter pantomimes as they were normally based around a religious holiday. Nowadays, this could then encourage religious people to go and watch them as they may feel that it is a unique way to involve religion in their life. In the video, there is a narrator that talks the majority of the time, but then you also see clips of the same man performing on stage in a pantomime. The narrator is then answering the questions which appear on the screen and then sometimes voiceover is used if they show an image of something that is related to the topic he is talking about. This gives the audience more depth of what he is talking about and gives them more of a better understanding. Background music is then used whilst the man is talking which makes it more interesting as the music is played quite quietly and makes you listen to the video more. The target audience for this video would be from 10-60+ as there is quite a lot of information given to you so an older person would probably appreciate it more compared to a younger person. However, the way he tells the information is in quite a basic form, therefore the younger audiences would understand and take in what he is teaching.

Historically, between 1837 and 1901, pantomimes were seen as being one of the most popular forms of theatre in Victorian England. Stereotypically, it was part of our given national culture and most generations of English people were somehow involved in them or at least experienced a pantomime performance. However, in modern day life, opinions of pantomimes have changed. Nowadays they are perceived to be of a lower status and not suitable for the upper class due to its humour compared to the Victorian era. For example, one of the main roles in an upcoming pantomime in Leeds includes Scotty T who was in Geordie Shore. This show is not suitable for children who go and watch pantomimes, therefore, if it were a hundred years ago they may see it as being inappropriate. This shows that their demographic has changed from only being targeted at the upper class when they were quite posh and their was little humour, and if there was, it would be about serious topics. Now, the humour is more witty and can sometimes be quite rude which appeals more to the middle class more as they would accept and relate to the humour more, however, it would not be acceptable in the Victorian times. This clearly shows the difference between the two time periods and shows that the demographic has clearly changed; showing that pantomimes are now aimed at different audiences.

In conclusion, from researching existing products of my ritual – pantomimes – it has given me ideas of how to make my promotional material. I have looked at the mode of address and the representation of all five media products which have taught me what is and is not suitable within pantomime promotional material. From looking at documentaries to posters, I now have decided which angle I am going to take mine in to make it slightly different to everyone else’s.



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