Row over York pantomime
Theatre boss says changes needed to arrest decline
York Theatre Royal is embroiled in a row with fans over the future of its famous pantomime.
Theatre executive director Tom Bird has insisted that the panto will continue, but without the involvement of Berwick Kaler, who has been writer, director and Dame (pictured) in the hugely successful production for more than 40 years.
It follows falling sales for this year’s production, Sleeping Beauty, which received mixed reviews from the critics.
Kaler, who is 73, retired from performing last year but continued as writer and director of the show. Last week he said he regretted retiring and wanted to get back on stage.
But Bird said that the show needed a reboot and a new writer and director to address declining audiences, which had dropped to 30,000 compared to 55,000 ten years ago. “We cannot leave it alone” he told BBC Radio York. “We cannot leave it to decline unchecked”.
He added that a new director would also need the freedom to choose a different cast if he or she felt it was needed.
But fans have backed the existing regulars, many of whom have worked with Kaler for more than 20 years. More than 1,400 of them have already signed a petition objecting to the proposal to axe the panto and its cast.
York’s pantomime has historically been amongst the most successful in the country in terms of critical acclaim and has won a number of awards. It also accounts for more than a third of the theatre’s annual takings.