One of the most famous pantomime venues in the North East is planning to ‘turn it up a notch’ this year as it returns to the stage this evening – and we’ve taken a look behind the scenes.
The annual panto at Newcastle’s Theatre Royal attracts audiences from across Northumberland, and it’s easy to see why as father and son duo Danny Adams and Clive Webb return for their 11th year in Dick Whittington.
The show, which opens tonight, has been re-imagined by seasoned local producer Michael Harrision, who has been behind productions such as The Bodyguard, Annie and Gypsy.
Speaking last week in rehearsals, Mr Harrison said: “This is the first time we’ve done Dick Whittington in my time. It’s actually the first time I’ve ever directed it as a panto anyway, but because we’ve done 11 years with Clive and Danny I think you can’t always repeat the same title. I think it’s important that we do something fresh.
“We always bend the story here, but we’ve bent it even more this year because London has nothing to do with it and the audience here don’t care about London. This is about someone coming to Newcastle to be Lord Mayor.
“I’ve kind-of taken the traditional structure of the story because this is where I can try new things.”
And there will certainly be some new techniques in the show.
The production team has, again, drafted in the support of tech experts The Twins FX, who have produced many stunning effects on the stage.
Paul and Gary Hardy-Brown wouldn’t give too much away, but did explain the difficulties of producing effects like flying helicopters on the stage.
Paul said: “It’s very hard in this climate where everyone is immersed in technology so visual special effects are so important in the theatre. We’re trying to bring some of that magic and Hollywood special effects into the theatre.
“Many other pantomimes seem to keep the same thing, where they use the same props, but the difference with this production is that it’s state-of-the-art and up to date.”
But no prop or special effect can master the comic legends that are Danny Adams and Clive Webb. Explaining why they return each year, they joked it was “purely for the money”.
“We came here 11 years ago with the intention we’d just one year and it went that well that they brought us back for a second year, and it’s just grown from there,” said Mr Adams.
“I don’t want to give too much away, but we’ve got a new slapstick, which I can’t wait to do, which involves a lot of water.”
The show is at Newcastle’s Theatre Royal until Sunday, January 17. Tickets are available from £12. For further information visit www.theatreroyal.co.uk.