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Darth Vader voted the nation's most likely panto villain in new survey

19th December 2016

With the UK pantomime season well underway, a survey released by healthcare provider, Benenden, has revealed that Darth Vader is the nation’s preferred alternative to traditional panto villains.

And Mums have been selected as the family member most likely to be the Fairy Godmother.

Choosing from a wide list of well-known villains in fictional culture, Star Wars’ Darth Vader topped the poll with a fifth of votes, while a matching of family roles to panto characters led to 14% of the vote going to Mums being the Fairy Godmother.

Benenden, who are sponsoring this year’s production of the pantomime Cinderella at the York Theatre Royal, surveyed Brits on a range of questions related to the topic. Everyone who took part was asked which panto characters they related to as a child, compared to who they relate to as an adult - Cinderella’s rags-to-riches story comes out top in both scenarios with 13% of the vote.

Berwick Kaler, the UK’s longest serving panto dame and writer of York Theatre Royal’s Cinderella, commented: “what an audience laughed at 10 years ago they are not laughing at today. Pantomime has survived because its humour has changed with the times. I firmly believe that panto is the last bastion of community theatre, and therefore original scripts are required (as opposed to boring recycled ones) to reflect the local humour and interests.

“Don’t forget every family has a Fairy Godmother – she’s called ‘mum’!

“Cinderella isn’t one of my favourite pantomimes as there is no part for the dame – however, I am treating my role as an ugly sister as a challenge. Even at 70 years old I have retained my youthful energy and outstanding beauty, therefore I shall be required to act ugly!”

The Benenden survey estimates some seven million Brits will be going to a pantomime this year, with around half a million (7%) enjoying the escapism from daily life that a traditional British panto offers.

Coming top of the reasons (19%) to go to the panto is the chance to enjoy time with the family, while the comedy and experiencing the Christmas feeling were a close joint-second (16% each). This changed from childhood experiences when the ‘Christmas feeling’ was top of the reasons (28%) Brits liked going to the panto as a child.

We all know that Cinderella famously has a Fairy Godmother to look out for her, and looking at what Brits would have asked their own Fairy Godmother when they were a child, being able to fly came top (20%), being invisible scored 18% of the vote and being able to talk to animals racked up 16%.

A special request of adults gives a more poignant note, as their top request was to bring back loved ones who are no longer with them (29%).

Panto makes you happy

Benenden’s survey also looked into the benefits of going to your local pantomime, and a third of those surveyed reckoned that seeing a pantomime makes them happier, while more than a quarter said the experience brings back nostalgic feelings.

A quarter felt seeing a pantomime helps them relax and one in five people said it allows them to escape the troubles of day-to-day life.

Paul Keenan, of Benenden, said: “We were interested to look into the wellbeing benefits of pantomime and the role that this tradition plays in the typical Christmas experience. Our survey shows that those who have the panto as a firm part of their festive traditions are coming away feeling happier and relaxed.

“Pantomimes have been a mainstay of British culture for so long, and we know that for many families, taking everyone along to the theatre for this Christmas staple is as much a part of the comfort and tradition of the season as dressing the tree and the Queen’s Christmas message. This gives a sense of wellbeing and can be a truly valuable experience for the mind.”

Meanwhile, which real-life story did respondents think would make a good panto story? Perhaps unsurprisingly, this year’s U.S. Presidential Election came top with 16% of the vote.

And finally, like Cinderella, did you have to rush home from the office Xmas Party this year? You might not have been wearing a glass slipper, but the item Brits were most likely to leave behind turns out to be their mobile phone (16%).


The research was conducted by Censuswide, with 2,016 respondents aged 16+ in GB between 23.11.16 – 28.11.16. The survey was conducted from a random sample of UK adults. Censuswide abide by and employ members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles.