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TueSat 10am–8pm**
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York Theatre Royal’s world-famous panto dame Berwick Kaler took to the ‘stage’ yesterday, when he paid a visit to the building site to see how work is progressing on the theatre.  This year is Berwick’s 37th pantomime, Dick Whittington (and his meerkat), which is taking place at The Signal Box Theatre at the National Railway Museum during the theatre’s closure for a £4.1million redevelopment.

Berwick, who is the UK’s longest serving pantomime dame, was given a unique perspective of the auditorium, which is like a second home to him. He stood on the foundations of the stage and was shown the framework for the new raked seating in the stalls.  Writing and designing a pantomime outside of this traditional proscenium space has been an interesting challenge.

Berwick commented:

As far as I’m concerned putting a pantomime on at the National Railway Museum (with a traverse stage) is a world first. Humour wise, the Theatre Royal’s pantomime has always been an intellectual challenge for our audiences. They expect the unexpected and they’re going to get that in abundance at the Signal Box Theatre. Everything has had to be thought out differently which has brought out elements of inspiration never before seen in panto. Hopefully, it will be a one off unique experience not to be missed.

Berwick was unable to perform in this summer’s production of The Railway Children due to a back injury.  He is keen to reassure fans that may have been disappointed by not seeing him that he is completely recovered:

I did rehearse for the recent production of the Railway Children at this venue but due to a fractured earlobe (he joked!!) I never made it to opening night. I promise that won’t happen in Dick Whittington and his Meerkat. I must now leave this building site and venture home to write the script – we start rehearsals on Monday!

Tickets are on sale now for Dick Whittington (and his meerkat) priced at £12 to £32.50 (£1 transaction fee per booking) from York Theatre Royal Box Office on 01904 623568, in person or online at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.