Story of Georgian Theatre to be retold in its own panto

Richmond’s Georgian Theatre Royal features in its own pantomime this year as the playhouse’s story of rediscovery is woven into the traditional plot of Sleeping Beauty.

The panto action starts in 1788, the year that Samuel Butler opened his theatre in Richmond, and then, as the plot unfolds, the theatre and all its inhabitants get put to sleep.

It awakened at the beginning of act two in 1939, to coincide with the theatre’s re-discovery by history master Edwin Bush and his sixth form students at Richmond Grammar School.

The teacher and his pupils feature in the plot alongside all the other more recognisable characters, including a beautiful princess, the king and queen, a wicked fairy, a good fairy and even a dragon.

“There are two sleeping beauties in this year’s production, obviously Princess Aurora but also the theatre itself,” said Clare Allen, the pantomime’s writer and producer.

“The theatre essentially went to sleep for almost 100 years and had various uses during this time, including an auction house, furniture depot and paper store.

“It was only when Edwin Bush led an investigation into the building that its true identity was rediscovered and it could once more be restored to its original purpose.

“The real-life parallels with the fairy story are obvious and we wanted to bring the two together as a celebration of the theatre’s own remarkable history,” she added.

As with previous Georgian Theatre pantomimes, all the essential comic ingredients are in place – jokes, songs, dances and a dame.

A special feature is a huge knitted patchwork quilt that is an essential part of the sleeping enchantment.

The knitted element is an important component of Richmond pantomimes and this year members of the community have knitted hundreds of woollen squares to construct the magical quilt.

The cast includes several well-known faces from previous years, including Gary ‘Gacko’ Bridgens as Queen Tryphosa who is starring in his ninth Richmond pantomime and his fifth outing as dame.

He is joined by Ross Dean as stage husband King Samuel, who played the Tin Man in last year’s production The Wizard of Oz. Also from The Wizard of Oz cast are Nick O’Connor as Maleficent and Freya Mawhinney as Dolly Partridge. Making their debuts on the Richmond stage are Victoria West as Princess Aurora and Conor Hinds as her two love interests Dave and Hercules.

As well as playing the dame, Gary Bridgens will be making his debut as the pantomime’s Director. Daniel Bowater is returning for the ninth year as musical director, who is himself a multi-instrumentalist performer, composer and arranger, to provide the important musical dimension to the production, together with accomplished musician Joey Leyland.

The chorus is made up of three groups of talented young performers – including members of the Georgian Theatre Royal Youth Theatre – that have become a mainstay of this popular family-style of pantomime.

Sleeping Beauty follows the phenomenal success of Mother Goose, The Adventures of Sinbad, Babes in the Wood, Cinderella, Puss in Boots, Jack and the Beanstalk, Snow White and The Wizard of Oz that have all been the creation of Georgian Theatre Royal Productions.

Sleeping Beauty runs from Friday 7 December until Sunday 13 January 2019.

Tickets are priced from £9 and are available from the Box Office on 01748 825252 or via the online booking service on the Theatre’s website