Matt Aston is playing a big part in York Theatre Royal’s festive season. He’s previously directed pantos at Theatre Royal Wakefield and City Varieties, and he’s now co-directing Sleeping Beauty at York Theatre Royal with Berwick Kaler.
Aston’s also writing and directing a show for younger children in the Studio over Christmas, called The Storm Whale, based on the Benji Davies children’s stories.
The panto is being written by Berwick Kaler, despite him not playing the Dame after 40 years. It’ll be a difficult transition and I’m sure the locals will really miss Kaler being on stage!
Matt Aston says: “York is my home town now and directing the pantomime was an opportunity too good to miss. Since moving to York two years ago everyone I speak to, when they know I work in the theatre, says, ‘do you know the pantomime?’ and everyone seems to have a pantomime story. So I know how popular it is. I grew up with more commercial pantomimes. I used to go with my mum’s local social club. I saw Les Dawson play Baron Hardup and he was just magnificent.”
New to the creative team are set and costume designer Anthony Lamble and lighting designer Mark Jonathan. They will join Elliot Styche as musical director and Grace Harrington as movement director/choreographer.
Matt continues: “To be able to be good at pantomime you have to be a good actor, a good designer, a good lighting designer because it’s really hard. It’s a really hard skill to make a shambles look brilliant. For me, first and foremost be good – and then the experience of pantomime will be good.”
York Theatre Royal panto family members Martin Barrass, Suzy Cooper, A. J Powell and David Leonard are all returning for Sleeping Beauty, but they’ll certainly be missing Berwick!
Sleeping Beauty opens on 7 December and runs until 25 January in the Main House. The Storm Whale is in the Studio from 14 December to 4 January. Visit the York Theatre Royal website for more information.
Photograph credited to Anthony Robling