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Theatre Royal boss reveals future of Ben Langley after public backlash

PUBLISHED: 15:16 09 January 2019 | UPDATED: 07:49 10 January 2019

Ben Langley as Wishee Washee Credit: Rosa Maria Hughes

Ben Langley as Wishee Washee Credit: Rosa Maria Hughes

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The chief executive of Norwich Theatre Royal has made a decision on the future of Ben Langley after thousands signed a petition to keep him in the pantomime.

Comic Ben Langley, from Shimpling near Diss, said last week he would be leaving his Norwich panto days behind him after being told he would not be needed for Cinderella in 2019 as the show is going in a ‘new direction’.

The panto stalwart, who has performed at the Theatre Royal for the last five years, is currently starring as Wishee Washee in Aladdin and revealed the news on Twitter as fans told him they had already bought tickets to see him in the next panto.

Following the announcement, fans expressed their outrage with #BringBenBack and #SaveBenLangley hashtags started on Twitter and some audience members watching the show even held up posters in support of Ben.

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Petitions were also launched to urge theatre bosses to reconsider the decision and one started by David Perkins has gained over 2,000 signatures.

Norwich Theatre Royal's 2018 pantomime - Aladdin. Ben Langley as Wishee Washee, Richard Gauntlett as Widow Twankey and Steven Roberts as Aladdin. Picture: Simon Finlay PhotographyNorwich Theatre Royal's 2018 pantomime - Aladdin. Ben Langley as Wishee Washee, Richard Gauntlett as Widow Twankey and Steven Roberts as Aladdin. Picture: Simon Finlay Photography

Stephen Crocker, Norwich Theatre Royal chief executive, has now issued a statement after a theatre spokesman initially declined to confirm whether Ben would be returning.

He said: “We can confirm that Ben Langley will not be part of the cast of the 2019-20 pantomime Cinderella.

“It is very rare for any theatre producer to comment on casting processes and almost unheard of to announce that a performer will not be appearing in a new production.

“The casting process is complex and sensitive, and we also feel an ethical duty not to speculate on such matters.

READ MORE: Panto comedian Ben Langley ‘overwhelmed’ with public response after being told he will not return in 2019

“It is therefore with regret and under duress, we have taken this unusual decision as a response to media interest supported by Ben, customer inquiries and speculation on social media.

Ben Langley as Wishee Washee Credit: Rosa Maria HughesBen Langley as Wishee Washee Credit: Rosa Maria Hughes

“In making casting decisions, we look at the available parts, who would be most suitable for the individual roles on a production-by-production basis and no person is guaranteed to be engaged for more than one year at a time.

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“When considering artists with whom we have previously worked, we also take into account their performance on and off stage. The production team has weighed up all of these factors when making this decision.”

Reacting to the statement, Ben Langley said: ”I’m devastated and baffled by this as he suggests it is something I have done off-stage.

“I would love for him to let me know what it is I have done?

“I have only been informed it was a creative choice as they didn’t think I could play Buttons.”

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