At the weekend Theatre Royal Winchester hosted the first previews of its socially distanced Christmas Show, Four Dames in Search of a Panto. These were the first live performances in the theatre since 15 March.
Four Dames in Search of a Panto features panto set pieces (including the much loved Twelve Days of Christmas), hilarious gags (plus some very corny ones too!), original songs and familiar faces to Winchester audiences. The panto-styled show has been created by the same team behind the theatre’s hugely successful pantomimes – Written and directed by James Barry with music by composer Simon Slater.
The cast of four have all been part of the Winchester pantomime team before: Julian Eardley returns as one of the Dames – his 11 th outing as a Dame in the city. Julian is joined by his comic side-kick from the last three pantomimes– Ed Thorpe. Last year Ed played the title role in Dick Whittington, as well as Wally in Beauty and the Beast and Smee in Peter Pan – for which he was nominated in the national Great British Pantomime Awards in the Best Songsheet category.
Libby Gore, who played Fairy Bow Belles last year, is playing the third Dame. Tom Attwood who, for the last three years, has been the resident Musical Director playing the keyboard for the pantomimes has this year leapt on to the stage, going back to his roots as an actor, to play the fourth Dame. On Saturday Deryck Newland, the Chief Executive, welcomed the first audiences into the building since March and was given a spontaneous round of applause. He thanked those who had given to the charity’s Survival Fundraising Appeal in the Summer, by doing so had kept the theatre going during these last few months, and thanked them for their ongoing support in keeping live performance alive in Winchester.
The team at the theatre have put in significant measures to make the venue Covid secure and have been granted use of UK Theatre’s See It Safely mark that certifies venues are complying with the latest Government and industry Covid-19 guidelines to ensure the safety of staff and audiences. Measures in place include the removal of every other row of seats in the auditorium and leaving two empty seats in between each ‘audience bubble’. Hand sanitizer stations are in place throughout the building, a one-way system is in place and the venue has increased its cleaning routine throughout and regularly disinfects the auditorium, foyer and toilet areas. The bar isn’t open during the show but refreshments are served to the audiences whilst seated in the auditorium. Audiences have since commented on social media both at how much they enjoyed the show as well as how safe they felt coming to indoor the building.
For those unable to come to the theatre a number of performances will be live-streamed. There are also relaxed; British Sign Language; and audio described shows also scheduled. Four Dames in Search of a Panto runs at Theatre Royal Winchester from now until Sunday 3 January 2021. For more information, including performance dates and times, and to book tickets, visit theatreroyalwinchester.co.uk or call the Box Office on 01962 840 440.