Who’s ready for The Grand Old Dame of York?

York Theatre Royal’s 2018 panto is not only written and co-directed by Berwick Kaler – it stars him as well!

Berwick first stepped onto the York Theatre Royal panto scene in 1977, playing one of the Ugly Sisters. Having previously played villains and other roles on stage, it was the panto Dame that really put his name on the map.

Apart from two years (1986 and 1987) when he was appearing in London’s West End, he’s been York’s Dame right up until now. His opening words “Me babbies, me bairns” have become his catchphrase. I also hear he hurls Wagon Wheels into the audience and hands out bottles of brown ale, and if that’s not a reason to go to the panto this Christmas I don’t know what is

I’m fairly disappointed to hear one of the hallmarks of his scrips is a lack of plot – Berwick himself once said “Plots are for cemeteries”. Having written various pantomimes since his first attempt in 1981, clearly it’s somewhat of a winning formula. I’m yet to be convinced. Any play without plot is a mess – like a flat Yorkshire pudding. Nothing worse. 

Berwick Kaler said: “For forty years the panto team and I have shared laughter with the most loyal audience on the planet. To this day I haven’t a clue where we went right!”

Berwick will be joined onstage this year by regular York panto family members Martin Barrass, David Leonard, Suzy Cooper and AJ Powell. Between them they have clocked up 100 years in York panto appearances – pretty impressive stuff. 

Co-director Damian Cruden said: “I’m delighted to have a company that reflects the traditions of our York Pantomime. In this celebratory year of our very own ancient Dame we are delighted to welcome some much younger actors to help Berwick, Martin, David and Suzy on and off the stage.

“Once again we await any sign of a plot for our ensemble of actors to get to grips with but we know that after 40 years of service our Dame fully intends upon maintaining standards set over the years, so we will all still be wondering at the end of the night… just what did happen?”

It literally sounds like my pantomime from hell. What’s the point of sitting through an hour or two of nonsense? Having said that, I’m more convinced to go along and give it a go just to be (possibly, though unlikely) proved wrong.

Catch The Grand Old Dame of York at York Theatre Royal from Thursday 13th December to Saturday 2nd February.

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