For decades, Jamaicans across the diaspora visiting the island during the Christmas holiday look forward to the annual pantomime production on Boxing Day- December 26. But this year, the traditional production will not take place.
The producers of Jamaica’s pantomime said that for the first time in 78 years, there will be no new production due to coronavirus concerns. However, the Executive at the Little Theatre Movement, Anya Gloudon Nelson said the organisation is looking at a virtual Christmas celebration.
“There will be no pantomime opening on Boxing Day 2020 but we decided that we have to do something on the date that we would traditionally open the ‘panto’, so what we are doing is a virtual concert. It is titled ‘Nah Give Up’. It is drawing on the songs and scenes from pantomimes past which speak to our resilience…so songs like One Hand Caan Clap, we are stringing them together to create a seamless production,” she shared with the Jamaica Observer.
She said that they are closely monitoring the COVID-19 crisis, and should the situation change and present the opportunity to stage live entertainment, the company also has a plan in place for that.
“We are watching carefully, and once we get the clear we are planning to remount the 2019-2020 production Ruckshon Junction. The pantomime has survived so many other disasters, including Hurricane Gilbert in 1988, and various levels of civil unrest and other disturbances over the years, but nothing has come close to the girl ‘Corona’. But, we have decided we must do something and so we are doing the virtual concert and putting together serious plans — should the threat be lifted — to mount a production.”
The National Pantomime of Jamaica was started in 1941 with a British inspired production of Jack and the Beanstalk by educators Henry Fowler and Greta Fowler, pioneers of the Little Theatre Movement in Jamaica.
But the Jamaican stamp on the production came from Louise Bennett-Coverley (Miss Lou) and Ranny Williams, two Jamaican cultural icons that included Jamaican patois, social commetary and satire in the productions.
Other notable players have included Oliver Samuels, Charles Hyatt, Willard White, Rita Marley and Dawn Penn.