22 December marks the anniversary of the first pantomime, orchestrated by John Rich at the New Theatre at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1717. Rich, whose father bequeathed him a 75% share in the threatre in 1714, first created a Harlequin character known as Lun junior (Lun for lunatic) who was involved in slapstick performances. According to The Mirror magazine, Rich “rendered pantomime the most fashionable entertainment of a Theatre Royal. Mr. R. was possessed of the greatest taste in that particular department and spared no expense in their production.”
The pantomime as we know it today has evolved, introducing many conventions – pantomime dames, topical jokes, audience participation, etc. – but it started with John Rich and his Harlequin.
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