Blue Light Theatre Company has green light to return with Once Upon A Time panto

Blue Light Theatre Company cast members in dance rehearsals for Once Upon A Time

ONCE upon a time, the Blue Light Theatre Company expected to do a pantomime only once.

Instead, the York company is to stage its eighth panto next January. “Not bad, considering the first one was supposed to be a one-off,” says writer Perri-Ann Barley, who is joined in the production team by director Craig Barley and additional scriptwriter Steven Clark.

“We’ve worked out that since we began fundraising in 2012, we’ve managed to raise more than £25,000 for charity, which we’re very proud of.  This year, we’ll continue to support the York branch of the MND (Motor Neurone Disease) Association and York Against Cancer.

As the name would indicate, the Blue Light Theatre Company is no ordinary theatrical enterprise, especially when set against the backdrop of the pandemic. “Most of our cast either work for Yorkshire Ambulance Service or the NHS, so this show has already given us many challenges since I first wrote it in early 2020,” says Perri. 

“It has been, and continues to be, a very busy and trying time, and obtaining shift swaps to attend rehearsals hasn’t been easy. Our choreographer, Devon Wells, is expecting a baby, due any time now, which is exciting, but this meant we’ve had to set all the dance routines in a short space of time.

“That’s certainly tested the cast but Devon has managed to keep going with as much energy as always. That baby will definitely come out dancing!  We’re letting her have a rest now but she’ll be back in time for the show.”

Blue Light Theatre Company’s poster for next January’s pantomime, Once Upon A Time

The company has elected Julie Shrimpton as dance captain to keep things going while Devon is away. “Despite all the challenges, we are all loving being back together, performing and generally having fun, which is what panto is all about, and I hope that comes across in our performance in January,” says Perri.

“We’ve missed theatre so much in what’s been an awful time, but we’re delighted to be finally back rehearsing and it’s going really well. We can’t wait to welcome back our regular supporters and hopefully some new audience members too.”

Blue Lights’s fun-filled, fast-paced, time-travelling adventure, Once Upon A Time, will be performed at  Acomb Working Men’s Club on January 21 and 26 to 28 at 7.30pm, plus a January 22 matinee at 1pm.

How will the plot unfold, Perri, in this “completely original and brand-new story”? “The Fairy Godmother has lost her magic powers,” she says. “She enlists the help of a local inventor, and his new time machine, to go back in time in the hope of preventing the villainous Phillipe Fogg from stealing them, but will they succeed?

“This panto is a chance to witness the journeys of our weird and wonderful characters throughout time; sing and dance along to a vast array of music from different eras, and watch out for surprises, twists and turns along the way.”

Tickets will go on sale from Monday (25/10/202) at £10, concessions £8, children £5, at bluelight-theatre.co.uk, on 07933 329654 or from cast members. A fund-raising raffle with prizes will be held at each performance.

Pantomime director Craig Barley, right, taking part in a dance rehearsal for Blue Light Theatre Company’s pantomime

Blue Light Theatre Company raise £3,000 for York Against Cancer and Motor Neurone Disease Association

The Blue Light Theatre Company members with representatives of York Against Cancer and the Motor Neurone Disease Association (York) at the cheque presentation at York’s Ambulance Station. All pictures:: Scott Atkinson

THE Blue Light Theatre Company took to the stage once again in January at Acomb Working Men’s Club, York, to raise money for York charities York Against Cancer and Motor Neurone Disease Association (York).

“We’re thrilled to announce that we managed to match last year’s amount of £3,000 – despite our production costs rising,” says cast member Mark Friend, who played Pinocchio in Oh! What A Circus on January 24, 25 and 29 to 31.

“The money raised has been split equally between the two charities. We’ve received fantastic support from many of North Yorkshire’s tourist attractions and businesses; without their generous support, we would not have been able to raise this amount.”

The Blue Light Theatre Company in Oh! What A Circus at Acomb Working Men’s Club

Oh! What A Circus was the seventh pantomime performed by The Blue Light Theatre Company, made up of paramedics, ambulance dispatchers, York Hospital staff and members of York’s theatre scene,  who have raised well over £10,000 over those years.

Writer and co-producer Perri Ann Barley says: “It’s great to see our audience come back year after year to support us, plus lots of new audience as the word gets around just how good our productions are.

“Work is already underway for Panto 2021 and the challenge is on to make it even bigger and better than the last. The title will be announced later in the year”.

Mark Friend, as Pinocchio, in Oh! What A Circus

Last Wednesday, the Blue Light company met representatives from York Against Cancer and Motor Neurone Disease Association (York) MNDA at York’s Ambulance Station to present them with their cheques.

Julie Russell, from York Against Cancer, says: “Thank you very much for this generous donation. It will help us make a difference to cancer patients and their families’ lives. The Blue Light Theatre Company really do know how to put ‘fun’ into fundraising. Thank you.”

In the cheque presentation picture are Julie Russell, from York Against Cancer; James Chambers, Jen Dodd, Colin Pearson and Val Corder, from MNDA (York) and The Blue Light Theatre Company’s Zoe Paylor, Perri Ann Barley, Christine Friend, Beth Waudby, Mark Friend, Devon Wells, Mick Waudby, Craig Barley and Glen Gears.