DICK Whittington will still be the next Rowntree Players pantomime…but not until 2021.
“After many weeks of deliberation, it is with a very heavy heart that the Rowntree Players’ committee has eventually decided that this year’s pantomime, Dick Whittington, will not go ahead this year,” came today’s statement.
“But it will be back better than ever in December 2021.” Dates for next year’s diary will be December 4 to 11 with the usual evening and matinee performances.
The Players’ annual “rollicking romp of a panto” has taken place, with only a few breaks, for more than 70 years at York’s community theatre in Haxby Road. Given that long history, the decision to cancel the 2020 pantomime run amid the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic was not taken lightly.
Co-writer and director Howard Ella has worked closely with the board of trustees to mull over the possibilities, now that indoor performances are permitted, but in the end they bowed to the curse of social distancing and the uncertainty over when and if theatres can re-open at full capacity. No compromise was their verdict.
Howard says: “We could have considered performing to a small audience, with a three-piece band, no chorus, a limited cast and set, no shout-outs from the audience but, let’s be honest, that would not be the Rowntree Players’ panto everybody knows and loves.
“We have never done a compromised show and nor do we want to start to. The script is now locked in a secure vault in Alderman Fitzwarren’s bank, ready for summer auditions next year.”
The Players’ decision comes as the viability of Christmas pantomimes across the country is being assessed. “At a time when many venues are perilously close to closure, the Joseph Rowntree Theatre is unique in York in that it’s owned by the charity that runs it and has no staff overheads, run as it is by more than 170 volunteers,” says Dan Shrimpton, chair of the board of trustees.
“We wholeheartedly support Howard and his committee’s decision on this year’s pantomime, heart-breaking though it is. The ten-day run of performances in December is the real highlight of the theatre’s year, but we look forward to welcoming the Rowntree Players back next year with the postponed show. The show will go on – oh, yes it will!”
The Rowntree Players’ pantomime is “very much a community affair”, billed as all-round, good, affordable fun for all, written and directed by York artists, suitable for absolutely all ages, and not requiring any knowledge of previous shows or of the local area.
“Tickets will go on sale from the Joseph Rowntree Theatre box office in the summer of 2021 and are expected to sell very well, given the uncertainty surrounding many other local pantomimes,” today’s statement concludes.