The first “annual bit of rubbish” at York Theatre Royal without Berwick Kaler as the Dame and I wasn’t sure what to expect.
The rest of the cast remained more or less the same, just moved around a bit with varying levels of success.
I enjoyed my evening out. I had a good laugh and I enjoyed the nonsense and the usual rounds of cast member’s corpsing, spectacularly when Darth Diva bashed Evil Diva with his beak!
But…it didn’t have the sparkle that I expect from York Theatre Royal panto.
I think this is down to a number of factors.
Firstly, I think some people were miscast. Martin Barrass as the queen, for example. I think Barrass is a great stooge but he doesn’t have the physical stature or diva qualities to make a good dame. I stick to what I said last year when speculating who might replace Kaler, AJ should have played the queen and Martin the king. Together I think they could have made a funny couple.
I also thought Jack Lansbury didn’t quite pull off the romantic lead. I kept expecting Princess Beauty to run off with Darth Diva instead!
Sadly, Suzy Cooper also lacked energy as Princess Beauty.
Secondly, there are a lot of rumours circulating about the future of the pantomime. There was a report in the Press that Kaler was reconsidering his retirement. A petition on Facebook to “save our pantomime” and at the end of the performance Barrass suggested that not all the cast would be back next year. My partner had also been told that 10 years ago the theatre used to sell 50000 tickets to the panto. This year they sold 30000.
It will be sad if the tradition doesn’t continue but part of me, possibly a slightly cynical part, thinks that this might just be a publicity stunt to raise the profile and generate a bigger audience for next year. Otherwise, I can’t quite see how Martin Barrass keeps his job when he openly challenges the decisions of theatre management from stage.
To finish on a more positive note, I thought David Leonard did his usual sterling job as the baddy and this year he was given more space to develop it.
Newbie Howie Michaels was a good addition to the cast too.
York Theatre Royal pantomime has always been a wonderful retreat from the angst and stress of real life. I hope it continues and that the theatre allows it to evolve rather than throws the baby out with the bath water.
But please, think about how you play to the strengths of your cast.