Theatre’s panto ‘hits the spot’

Mark Beaumont talks to Colin Blumenau, Cheif Executive of the Theatre Royal in Bury, who is standing down but remaining as artistic director.
Mark Beaumont talks to Colin Blumenau, Cheif Executive of the Theatre Royal in Bury, who is standing down but remaining as artistic director.
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MORE than 23,000 tickets have been sold, so far, for the Theatre Royal’s Christmas production of Dick Whittington and his Cat.

The popular pantomime, which has been running since November 25 and will see its last performance next Sunday, has sold at least an extra 200 tickets than last year’s Mother Goose panto.

“Every time we do it, it’s a risk, but this one really does seem to have hit the spot,” said Colin Blumenau, the theatre’s artistic director.

“We’ve had a really great reaction from the audience, feedback has been really positive – you can’t ask for much more than that.”

He added: “It’s certainly gratifying because these are difficult times and it seems people are still happy to come to panto – it seems to be one of those luxuries that everybody believes is essential at Christmas.”

Stressing the important role the annual production plays in the survival of the theatre, Mr Blumenau said: “The panto is somewhere between a quarter and a third of our annual audience so if we get it wrong we’re in trouble. Without it we just couldn’t survive the way we do, which is something we have in common with nearly every panto in the country.”

Consultations are already under way to decide which panto will be next to feature on the stage of the Georgian theatre, with Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel and Alice in Wonderland in the running.

A decision is likely to be made at the end of the month, so the script can be written and the design thought of before tickets go on sale around April or May.

Until then, the spring season programme has plenty for theatregoers to look forward to, with rehearsals for Stagefright – the Theatre Royal’s world premiere of Michael Punter’s new play – beginning in two weeks and acclaimed performers including Joanna Lumley and Lesley Garrett lined up for March.

“It’s fantastic that these people are coming here and giving their services for free to try and help the theatre raise money,” said Mr Blumenau.

“It’s brilliant that people of that status can come and support us in the way that we need support and it’s extraordinary in a town of this size that we can still draw them,” he added.