From Chambers Book of Days for 26 December:
Pantomimic acting had its place in the ancient drama, but the grotesque performances associated with our English Christmas, are peculiar to this country. Cibber says that they originated in an attempt to make stage-dancing something more than motion without meaning. In the early part of the last century, a ballet was produced at Drury Lane, called the Loves of Mars and Venus, 'wherein the passions were so happily expressed, and the whole store so intelligibly told by a mute narration of gesture only, that even thinking-spectators allowed it both a pleasing and rational entertainment. From this sprung forth that succession of monstrous medleys that have so long infested the stage, and which arise upon one another alternately at both houses, outlying in expense, like contending bribes at both sides at an election, to secure a majority of the multitude'
He's behind you! No, he isn't! Oh yes, he is! Oh no, he isn't!
There is something of a liturgical feel to these exchanges. The gestures too suggest a vulgar sacred space. I think of wrestling with its poses and attitudes: attempts to codify communal emotions.