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Oh yes it is going ahead: Pantomime preparations under way at Kenneth More Theatre

PUBLISHED: 17:00 11 November 2020 | UPDATED: 17:51 11 November 2020

Cast members Robert Anthony, Elizabeth Bright, Nigel Ellacott, Michelle Bishop and Darren Hartman. Picture: Olive Enokido-Lineham

Cast members Robert Anthony, Elizabeth Bright, Nigel Ellacott, Michelle Bishop and Darren Hartman. Picture: Olive Enokido-Lineham

Archant

The Kenneth More Theatre is getting ready to hold live performances of its Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs pantomime.

Cast members on stage. Picture: Olive Enokido-LinehamCast members on stage. Picture: Olive Enokido-Lineham

Having reopened in August, the theatre on Oakfield Road is determined to spread Christmas joy with its socially distanced and live streamed shows next month.

Whilst many theatres have been forced to close their doors due to covid KMT is one of few offering live panto performances this Christmas.

Sally Polden who became the head of KMT just before lockdown, explained the importance of putting on the show despite the difficult circumstances.

She said: “It’s been such a tough year for everybody and it’s incredibly important that this year there’s something that people can look forward to and that we can tick one of the boxes that are very traditional Christmas things that everybody wants to do.”

Nigel Ellacot as Nurse Nellie Nightnurse. Picture: Olive Enokido-LinehamNigel Ellacot as Nurse Nellie Nightnurse. Picture: Olive Enokido-Lineham

She noted that whilst the theatre has received financial support from the Arts Council it remains a difficult time for the arts industry.

The two hour shows, directed by Owen Smith, will be held from December 9 to January 21.

The cast features six main characters - Snow White, Nurse Nellie Nightnurse, Muddles, The Huntsman, Prince Louis and Queen Malania - alongside four professional dancers from Redbridge Drama Centre and children who take on the role of the dwarfs.

Elizabeth Bright, who grew up in Ilford and plays Snow White, explained the significance of the panto tradition.

Elizabeth Bright as Snow White getting ready in her dressing room. Picture: Olive Enokido-LinehamElizabeth Bright as Snow White getting ready in her dressing room. Picture: Olive Enokido-Lineham

She said: “I think a lot of the time pantomime is a child’s first experience of live theatre and I think it’s just not Christmas without it.

“I love pantomime. It’s such a unique, British and fun thing and my Christmas certainly wouldn’t be the same without it.”

Cast member Robert Anthony, who will make his panto debut as Prince Louis, described what it feels like to be back on stage.

He said: “I’m thrilled to be doing it and back in the theatre and on stage.

The socially distanced seating arrangement. Picture: Olive Enokido-LinehamThe socially distanced seating arrangement. Picture: Olive Enokido-Lineham

“I took so much for granted beforehand. Walking into the auditorium, seeing the seats and the lights again is just amazing.”

The theatre usually operates at a capacity of 365 but is now seating between 110 and 140 guests per performance due to social distancing guidelines.

Guests will only be able to access their allocated seat rows and table service will be available at both bars.

Schools can also attend the live performances within their bubbles.

Whilst pantomime fans are encouraged to attend the shows in person, the theatre is also selling livestream tickets for those who cannot make it to the theatre and want to enjoy the production from their own homes.

Four cameras set around the stage will capture the live performance so you can experience the panto alongside the audience.

Having attended the KMT panto sitting in the same seat every year since 1975, Sally spoke of the panto’s importance and accessibility for the local community.

She said: “This panto is historical in Redbridge. So many people remember this as part of their childhood. The majority of the staff are local, homegrown and grew up around Kenneth More and it’s in their blood.”

She added: “Not everyone can afford to take their family to the West End and I think the idea of a community theatre is that it’s putting on things for people who live here. It’s targeting everybody, so everybody thinks that there’s something for them here.”

In light of potential Tier 3 restrictions, the theatre is determined to bring Christmas cheer and promised that the shows will still go ahead.

If live audience performances cannot take place, the theatre confirmed that the shows will be available solely on livestream.

Tickets for the panto are available at visionrcl.org.uk/centre/kenneth-more-theatre

Adult tickets cost £17.50, child/concession £15, family ticket £60 and tickets for a group of 6 are £90.


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