Blue Light Theatre Company match the weather in frosty fairytale pantomime adventure Nithered! at Acomb WMC

The Three Pigs in Blue Light Theatre Company’s Nithered!: Simon Moore, left, Kevin Bowes and Kristian Barley   

BLUE Light Theatre Company’s tenth anniversary pantomime, Nithered!, is a frosty fairytale adventure by regular writer Perri Ann Barley to match the wintry weather in York.

The ongoing run at Acomb Working Men’s Club, Front Street, Acomb, continues with a 1pm matinee today and 7.30pm performances from January 24 to 26.

Formed by Yorkshire Ambulance Service staff, they performed their debut pantomime in 2013. “It was supposed to be a ‘one-off’ production to raise funds for a colleague who had been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease but was so successful that it’s still going to this day, and we’ve even branched out into performing plays too,” says Nithered! director Craig Barley.

“Since that first panto, more than £22,000 has been raised for our chosen charities: the Motor Neurone Disease Association (York) and York Against Cancer. Extra performances have been added over the years to accommodate more people, due to our shows’ ever-growing popularity, and there’s also a waiting list for people wanting to join the cast.

Acomb Working Men’s Club has housed the show since 2013. “It’s been our home for so long as they gave us the space for free for so many years, so we could maximise our charitable donations,” says Craig.

“We can seat 200 and offer use of the bar, meaning a relaxed performance which has received so much good feedback. New audience members are pleasantly surprised when they arrive and see the size, layout and the room all dressed up accordingly – putting them immediately at ease and into the panto spirit.”

All ten pantomimes have utilised the same production team: co-producers Perri and Craig, alongside choreographer Devon Wells and stage manager Dave Holiday. “Between us, so much has been achieved on the tiny stage at Acomb Working Men’s Club, from magic carpets to levitating witches!” says Craig.

The (Riding) Hoods in Nithered!: Kathryn Donley, left, Chelsea Hutchinson and Kalayna Barley

The cast still consists of Yorkshire Ambulance staff along with other talented performers from in and around York.

“We like to do things a little differently, creating a brand-new storyline every year, among other things,” says Craig. “But at the same time adding some traditional elements, such as the Dame, played by Steven Clark, who writes additional script material too, and the villain, Glen Gears, who has been with the company since the very beginning. Both of them are very much audience favourites.”

Introducing the storyline in Nithered!, Craig says: “The usually bright and happy village has been shrouded in a permanent frost by the evil Snow Queen (played by Perri Ann Barley), who has enlisted the Big Bad Wolf’ (Glen Gears) to govern the land on her behalf and to keep the population down.

“Mother Goose (Brenda Riley) and the villagers are struggling to cope with the never-ending winter and, with the Wolf around, they are living in constant fear for their safety. Things take a dramatic turn when one of the Three Pigs (Simon Moore, Kevin Bowes, Kristian Barley) is kidnapped by the Wolf.”

Whereupon the villagers decide to take matters into their own hands and head out on a very risky rescue mission. They enlist the help of the Fairy Godmother (Steven Clark), who finds herself in a face-off with the Snow Queen herself, but who will prove to be the most powerful?

“Will the villagers overcome the Big Bad Wolf? Will the everlasting winter come to an end? To find out, come join us and step right into the weird but wonderful world of Nithered!,” says Craig.

The Three Bears in Blue Light Theatre Company’s pantomime: Linden Horwood, left, Harry Martin and Richard Rogers

The cast also features Richard Rogers, Linden Horwood, Julie Shrimpton, Nicky Moore, Pat Mortimer, Zoe Paylor, Chelsea Hutchinson, Kalayna Barley, Kathryn Donley and Harry Martin, plus new members Aileen Stables and Audra Bryan.

“With this being our tenth anniversary, the team have really gone all out to give the audience an amazing experience and cannot wait for everyone to see it.”

Looking ahead, this summer Blue Light will present Murder At Reptilian Park, a new comedy murder mystery by Perri Ann Barley, to be staged in conjunction with the Galtres Centre in Easingwold. “It will run there from June 20 to 22, including a Saturday matinee, bringing us a whole new audience and new challenges,” says Craig. Tickets will be on sale soon on 01347 822472 or at

“Perri masterfully crafts our unique pantos, giving audiences new and interesting storylines featuring some familiar characters, which take them away from some of the other tired classic panto stories to give our audiences an experience like no other, ” says Craig. “That’s why so many return year after year.

“Perri is now working with London Playwrights [a resource for emerging playwrights] as she branches out to try and make her passion for writing a career. Not only this, but she’s also in talks with another professional theatre in Yorkshire, but more about that later.”

Blue Light Theatre Company in Nithered!, Acomb Working Men’s Club, Front Street, Acomb, York, January 20, 1pm; January 24 to 26, 7.30pm. Tickets: £12 adults, £10 concessions, £8 children. Box office: 07933 329654 or All proceeds go to Motor Neurone Disease Association York and York Against Cancer.

Who you gonna call when you need a voice for a Holy Snail in a York pantomime? Strictly between us, here’s the answer

The Blue Light Theatre Company cast members in rehearsal for The Legend Of The Holy Snail

THE voice of the National Lottery draws and Strictly Come Dancing will now be the voice of the Holy Snail in a York pantomime.

“Our dame and additional scriptwriter, Steven Clark, happens to know BBC announcer Alan ‘Voice of the Balls’ Dedicoat, so he approached him – and Alan very happily agreed to be our snail’s voice!” says a delighted Perri Ann Barley, of The Blue Light Theatre Company.

“He has already recorded the script we sent him and even put his own spin on it, with a slight nod to the Lottery and Strictly. We’re obviously thrilled about this and very grateful to him for giving up his time to help us out.”

Cast members being put through their paces – but not at snail’s pace! – for The Legend Of The Holy Snail

In the wake of their 2022 murder mystery comedy thriller, A Performance To Die For, raising £1,000 for charity, Blue Light will stage The Legend Of The Holy Snail at Acomb Working Men’s Club, Front Street, York, on January 20, 25, 26 and 27 2023 at 7.30pm, complemented by a 1pm matinee on January 21.

Perri’s new and original story is directed by Craig Barley and choreographed by Devon Wells, who are joined in the cast by Steven Clark, Glen Gears, Brenda Riley, Julie Shrimpton, Simon Moore, Kevin Bowes, Jorvik Kalicinski, Richard Rogers, Nicky Moore, Linden Horwood, Chelsea Frankling, Pat Mortimer, Kristian Barley, Sam Richardson, Kalayna Barley, Kathryn Donley, Harry Martin and Tim Horwood.

“What’s it about? Ariel is celebrating her birthday and as a gift has requested to replace her mermaid’s tail with legs, so she can go to the dance with the Prince,” says Perri. “The only being who has magic powerful enough to make this happen is The Holy Snail, but does it really exist or is it just legend?

The Blue Light Theatre Company poster for January 2023’s production of The Legend Of The Holy Snail

“The Mermaids and Islanders make it their mission to find out. Unfortunately, the incorrigible and evil Captain Hook and his crew have found themselves shipwrecked on the Island and they also want to find the mystical creature. Who will get there first?”

The Blue Light Theatre Company combines York area staff from the Yorkshire Ambulance Servive – hence the company name – with performers from the York actors’ circuit in their productions. This one will be “packed with amazing music that will have you singing and dancing along”.

As usual, all proceeds will go to the Motor Neurone Disease Association and York Against Cancer. Tickets cost £10, concessions £8, children £6, from or on 07933 329654.

Another rehearsal scene for The Blue Light Theatre Company’s January pantomime

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, 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.