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Canterbury: Panto exhibition at The Beaney Oh Yes It Is!

By Angela Cole

Ready to perfect your boos and hisses? Panto season may be in front of us, but its history is well and truly behind us.

A new interactive exhibition celebrating the history of the very British institution comes to The Beaney in Canterbury throughout this winter.

Drawing on one of the largest collections of pantomime-related material in the UK, it will feature posters, props, programmes and costume designs, the glitz, glamour and larger-than-life characters which have graced stages across the country through the ages.

The Oh Yes It Is! pantomime exhibition at The Beaney includes images through the ages, including Ben Roddy as Mrs Smee Picture Tim Stubbings

The Oh Yes It Is! pantomime exhibition at The Beaney includes images through the ages, including Ben Roddy as Mrs Smee Picture: Tim Stubbings

Oh Yes It Is! features items from the David Drummond collection, which was recently acquired by the University of Kent, and has been developed with the university’s special collections and archives department.

It includes a special section by David Drummond celebrating the life and work of Joseph Grimaldi, who expanded and developed the role of the clown within the harlequinade genre through the early 1800s, and also artefacts from The Beaney’s own collection.

Panto came to Britain in the 16th century, having started out as a form of Italian street theatre, or ‘commedia dell’arte’, and over the centuries developed into a much-loved, and quintessentially British, tradition.

Chairman of Canterbury City Council’s community committee, Cllr Neil Baker, said: “Canterbury’s Marlowe Theatre is home to one of the best pantomimes in the country, so it makes perfect sense for The Beaney to host this celebration just around the corner.”

The Beaney, Canterbury

The Beaney, Canterbury

Director of museums and galleries, Joanna Jones, said: “We’re delighted to celebrate Canterbury’s long association with pantomime through this interactive show. The Beaney exhibition and the Marlowe Theatre’s pantomime are complementary activities, providing a great day out to enjoy during the festive season.”

It coincides with the Marlowe Theatre pantomime run this year of Peter Pan, which runs from Friday, November 24 to Sunday, January 14 and stars Shaun Williamson, Coronation Street star Wendi Peters Gemma Hunt, from CBeebies show Swashbuckle and panto dame Ben Roddy.


Costume design for The Widow Twankey (Mr Dan Leno) Bridal Scene by Wilhelm

Costume design for The Widow Twankey (Mr Dan Leno) Bridal Scene by Wilhelm


Interactive spaces allow visitors of all ages to immerse themselves in the genre.

They include Widow Twankey’s laundry, Dick Whittington’s road to London and the Giant’s library.

There is a pantomime-themed dressing up area, colouring activities for children and a Dick Whittington-themed trail around the museum.

There is also a graphical timeline from the 1700s looking at the people and events that shaped and influenced pantomime.

Paul Hendy and Emily Wood, producers of the Marlowe Theatre panto Picture Tony Flashman

Paul Hendy and Emily Wood, producers of the Marlowe Theatre panto Picture: Tony Flashman

It comes bang up to date with set and costume designs loaned by Evolution Productions. Emily Wood and Paul Hendy started Evolution Productions in 2005 and have built up a reputation for bespoke pantomimes with an emphasis on high quality production values, casting and funny scripts.

Paul said: “We are absolutely thrilled to be working with The Beaney on this incredible pantomime exhibition. I was lucky enough to be given a sneak preview of some of the exhibits and it’s a marvellous insight into British culture over the last 150 years.

“Pantomime is a truly unique British tradition and it’s wonderful that it is being celebrated in this way.”


Oh Yes It Is! runs from Saturday, November 25 to Sunday, February 18 at the Special Exhibitions Room at The Beaney in Canterbury.

It is organised in partnership with the University of Kent special collections and archives department, and with Evolution Productions, and was co-curated with Jo Dyer from Animate Arts Company. For details visit thebeaney.co.uk or call 01227 862162.

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