I have been going to the York Panto since it first started in 1977. There has been one consistent force since then, the actor Berwick Kaler. This is his 38th panto. This year we headed out to see Cinderella at York Theatre Royal.
Cinderella at York Theatre Royal is 2016’s panto. This is the fourth production over many years, and of course is a story we’re all familiar with.
The ingredients for a good panto :
• slapstick. Essential, and must be executed well
• a dash of anarchy in a child-friendly manner
• the obligatory water scene
• a cast who work well together
• plot – not essential, but needs to get where it needs to be
• corpsing. It is acceptable to laugh at anything you weren’t expecting which happens during the panto, especially if you are a castmember
• catchphrases that return every year
• very famous people are NOT essential to make a panto good
I would say if there was a tick box of these essentials, then Cinderella at York Theatre Royal has them all. There has been one big thing missing this year though.
Berwick Kaler, the co-writer and the longest serving Panto dame in the country had a pacemaker fitted back in August. He’s fine now, and is back in this year’s performance. His trusty sidekick Martin Barrass had a horrible motorbike accident in September. He is recovering, but has had to miss this year.
Other regulars are present and correct. David Leonard (long-serving too) is back as the baddie – Baroness von Naff. Suzy Cooper has also done over 20 years at the Theatre Royal, and returns playing Cinderella. Making up the numbers is AJ Powell who takes what would be Barrass’ place alongside Berwick Kaler. They’re the ugly sisters Priscilla and Hernia.
The production starts with a song ‘It’s a Pantomime!’, and Berwick is on stage. I always well up a bit when he stands at the front, and says “me babbies, me bairns”. It gets me every time! I’m not sure when he started saying it, but it’s something which has always been there and that I’ve grown up with.
The story follows the classic Cinderella tale but with a few variations. The ball happens, the glass slipper is lost, and Prince Charming’s love needs to be found. There are references dropped into the show from 2016 – Brexit, Trump, Pokemon are three that I think happened. Pokemon had my nephew laughing out loud.
Cinderella has the usual films which feature in key parts of the show. They don’t disappoint. We get Carpool Karaoke with Suzi Quatro and Berwick Kaler which is good daft fun. Then there’s a Rocky Horror Picture Show tribute featuring Harry Gration. This had me laughing out loud and cheering by the end.
The York Rescue Boat features too. The boat works on the Ouse and Foss and has had a horrible busy year. There is an option to donate to them in the programme too.
There are plenty of references to things around York including the obligatory mention of the suburb Clifton Without. Wagon Wheels feature (we got one!!) and more. No more Newcastle Brown this year for the daddies, they’ve changed the beer!
People travel from all over to see the York Panto. I can’t even try to explain it, it’s bonkers. It’s Cinderella, but not as you know it. You’ll go once and you’ll want to return.
What I love about the York Panto is that it works on every level. We were sat up in the gods where I could hear my mum laughing out loud. Shaun was enjoying it, and I had H and her cousin next to me who were both laughing out loud.
It’s a small production – it runs without understudies. If someone gets injured, the show must go on. I do remember Berwick Kaler getting hurt one year and having to be careful in the water scene the following night. It’s a brilliant production and it’s the same cast, bar the children dancers, every night. It’s a team.
For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to bring H to the York Panto. Every year when I lived in York or went back for Christmas we would go on Christmas Eve. This year we went the day before, and we’re still talking about it! This might be as H got a shout out by Berwick and the gang during the songsheet section!
Cinderella at York Theatre Royal runs from 8th December 2016 to 28th January 2017. Just go. You won’t regret it. The York Panto always makes The Guardian Top Panto picks every year (possibly as Alf Hickling is an old York lad so he too grew up with it).
Thank you to James the York Theatre Royal Communications Manager for sending me the photos!