York Theatre Royal Panto – This year marks the very last year that York’s legendary long-serving dame Berwick Kaler will be making us laugh at York Theatre Royal. We went to see the panto on Friday and it was fabulously funny and yet so poignant to think that we won’t get to enjoy any more of Berwick’s ‘rubbish’.
Panto at the York Theatre Royal
The children loved the slapstick moments and Master T rocked in his chair laughing when poor Martin Barrass repeatedly got wet. Each panto is different but keeps the common thread of familiar scenes that made me stop and think, ‘oh yes, I like this bit’, or oh, lovely we still have the singing to do!’. I think it is that familiarity that makes the York Theatre Royal panto so endearing to its multitude of fans. For many it is an intrinsic part of Christmas.
I love the rest of the cast too, and have a soft spot for the way villain David Leonard shakes his hips (don’t tell Mr W!). The set was glittery and glorious as usual, as were the costumes! There were some topical jokes as well as some annoying ear-worms (think Babby Bairns sung to the tune of Baby Shark – you are welcome!).
But all in all a magnificent mish-mash of old and new. Berwick received a standing ovation (I would have been shocked at anything less). The only question remains – whatever will we do next year?
We were invited to the York Theatre Royal Panto press night, but as always all opinions expressed are my own.
The Official bit:
Forty years on, Berwick Kaler is The Grand Old Dame of York 2018
After the curtain came down on the final performance of this year’s highly successful production of Jack & the Beanstalk, he announced to the packed auditorium that the title of the 2018-19 pantomime as The Grand Old Dame of York. York Theatre Royal Artistic Director Damian Cruden co-directs a show that is affectionately known by performers and the regular audience as ‘the same old rubbish’.
Casting is complete and fans can rest assured he’ll be joined by regular York panto family members Martin Barrass, David Leonard, Suzy Cooper and AJ Powell. Between them they have clocked up 100 years in York panto appearances. Jake Lindsay steps out of the Ensemble to join the regular cast. This year’s Ensemble is led, as usual, by Danielle Mullan (Dance Captain) with Scott Wallace, Charleigh Webb and Cameron MacDonald all returning to the line-up. They are joined by newcomers Joseph Poulton and Autumn Draper.
Berwick and the theatre’s Artistic Director Damian Cruden co-direct the show. Returning are set and costume designer Mark Walters, musical director Elliot Styche and choreographer Grace Harrington.
York Theatre Royal Panto
After playing panto villains, Berwick first put on a frock in Cinderella at York Theatre Royal in 1977. He played Philomena, one of the Ugly Sisters. He made his York debut earlier that year as Sir Andrew Aguecheek in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Apart from two years (1986 and 1987) when he was appearing in London’s West End, he’s been the Grand Old Dame of York ever since. His opening words “Me babbies, me bairns” have become his catchphrase along with hurling Wagon Wheels into the audience and giving out bottles of Newcastle Brown Ale. His first York panto script was for Aladdin in 1981. An absence of plot has become one of the hallmarks of his scripts. “Plots are for cemeteries,” he once joked. As well as variations on regular panto titles such as The Lad Aladdin and Robin Hood & His Merry Mam, he has created original pantos including Dick Turpin The Panto.
Panto co-director Damian Cruden said:
“This year is Berwick’s 40th and we are celebrating with a brand new pantomime The Grand Old Dame of York. The regular team will be back and we’re already hard at work in preparing next year’s extravaganza. To have served the York community with such steadfast dedication for 40 years is a huge achievement. Berwick is the nation’s greatest Panto Dame and he stands as equal to the greats like Dan Leno, Stanley Baxter and Jimmy Logan. He has created his very own unique Dame as all the greats do, with annual outings that have unstintingly entertained the people of York and beyond. Each year he creates a completely new pantomime with a team of dedicated professionals at YTR. His determination to maintain high production standards is echoed in YTR’s commitment to providing the best for our audiences. The York Panto with Berwick as its Dame is a yearly celebration with our community not to be missed!”
The Grand Old Dame of York will play from Thursday 13 December 2018 to 2 February 2019.
Tickets will go on sale on 1 March in person only from the York Theatre Royal box office.
Have a look at what other events are on in Yorkshire this Christmas.