Staffordshire University to offer world’s first pantomime degree
Image: Wikimedia Commons / Antoine Montule

Staffordshire University to offer world’s first pantomime degree

A Master’s degree in pantomime, billed as the first of its kind in the world, is being launched by Staffordshire University.

The MA Contemporary Pantomime Practice will offer research and practical study of the artform.

The course is due to start in September 2022, and says it will examine pantomime through a “21st-century lens”, “particularly post Me Too and Black Lives Matter”. 

Associate Professor of Acting and Directing Robert Marsden, one of the course’s leaders, said: “We want to see how far we can take this.”

Co-course leader Richard Cheshire, who is currently directing a production of Snow White at Stafford’s Gatehouse Theatre, said: “Pantomime is one of Britain’s great contributions to world theatre, and we want to increase respect for this interactive art form. It is an annual tradition for families, and is often where children get their first experience of ‘live’ theatre.

“Much has been written about the history and development of British pantomime, but very little research is currently investigating and analysing contemporary manifestations of the form. It is a great period of innovation for the genre, which we want to be at the cutting edge of.”

Pantomimes have become the highest grossing theatre productions annually for theatres across the UK, often being seen as the lifesaver within the industry due to the profit each panto generates keeping theatres alive

Stephen Mulhern

As part of the course, students will create and produce their own original show, which will be performed in the local community. They will also get formal training and networking opportunities for future careers through placements and work experience.

Stephen Mulhern, a TV presenter and experienced pantomime performer, said: “The MA supporting this great British institution is the perfect training ground for performers on stage, technical team, backstage to learn first-hand their skills within this live area of entertainment.

“Pantomimes have become the highest grossing theatre productions annually for theatres across the UK, often being seen as the lifesaver within the industry due to the profit each panto generates keeping theatres alive.”

It is estimated that more than 260 professional pantomimes are staged in Britain each year. This generates nearly £63m in revenue, which helps to keep venues afloat and fund theatre productions throughout the rest of the year.

Employment in pantomime is also not just seasonal. Many producing houses employ set and costume designers, props and wig makers, script writers, dance specialists, musical directors and arrangers, marketing and publicity experts, producers, archivists and creators in managerial and leadership roles throughout the year.

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