In Great Britain this year, the Christmas pantomime season has coincided with the general election, which means that the politicians have been busy being Santa Claus and the panto stars busy being Fairies.

To Americans, the word “pantomime” conjures a foreigner in white face and white gloves silently building an imaginary wall; but there is no mime in British pantomime—a noisy, gender-bending slapstick holiday from normality, a call to the infantile, to vulgarity, to bad manners, and, naturally, to bad acting. In panto’s world-turned-upside-down, travesty rules, and license is the name of the game: The audience is free to hiss the villain and shout up to the stage; the actors are free to give as good as they get from the paying customers, and sometimes throw things at them.