What to expect at Norwich Theatre Royal's panto this Christmas

Richard Gauntlett in Panto in a Pickle! Picture: Max Hilton

Richard Gauntlett in Panto in a Pickle! Picture: Max Hilton - Credit: Archant

Richard Gauntlett is set to star in Panto in a Pickle! at Norwich Theatre Royal this Christmas, and this year will be extra special. 

Mr Gauntlett joined the cast in 2001 as the baddie in Mother Goose, after topping the bill in the famous Cromer Pier Summer Show in 2000 and 2001, but from 2002 he became the dame. 

In his second year, he also took over the writing of the panto, which was Jack and the Beanstalk, and he hasn't looked back since.

But this Christmas, the pantomime will be different due to coronavirus, with the Theatre Royal running a socially distanced festive season called A Right Royal Christmas from December 16 to 24.

Norwich Theatre Royal is temporarily reopening its doors this December for A Right Royal Christmas w

Norwich Theatre Royal is temporarily reopening its doors this December for A Right Royal Christmas with three festive shows Picture: Max Hilton - Credit: Archant

Part of this programme is Panto in a Pickle!, and Mr Gauntlett will take audiences on a madcap adventure through six fairy tales, created after the pandemic forced the postponement of Dick Whittington until 2021.

Mr Gauntlett said: "It will be six pantomime favourites in one, including Cinderella and Aladdin, and will have a storyline running through it.

"It will have all the familiar characteristics of pantomime but a totally new story and it will be entertaining to see how quickly we change costumes. 

Norwich Theatre Royal 2019 panto rehearsals for Cinderella - Richard Gauntlett, left, Fairy Godmother, with, from second...

Norwich Theatre Royal 2019 panto rehearsals for Cinderella - Richard Gauntlett, left, Fairy Godmother, with, from second left, Buttons (Joe Tracini), Prince Charming (David Witts), and Cinderella (Kara-Lianne Jones) Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Archant 2019

"I know what works and what doesn't with Norfolk audiences and they are always a delight and ready for a good time."

While in previous years there has been a huge cast, this year he will just be joined by West End star Harriet Bunton and comedian Tucker.  

The other shows are A Circus Carol and She Go Does It Under the Christmas Tree… with Friends, with all three alternating during the season, and along with a socially distanced auditorium they will all run from 60 to 90 minutes with no interval. 

The Theatre Royal Panto Carol Service at St Peter Mancroft Church. Richard Gauntlett, Smee and Panto

The Theatre Royal Panto Carol Service at St Peter Mancroft Church. Richard Gauntlett, Smee and Panto writer and director. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2014

While the Tier 2 restrictions are being reviewed on December 16,  Mr Gauntlett, who travels from Eastbourne to Norwich each year, is optimistic it will go ahead and rehearsals are in full swing.

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Speaking about his 20th year in the show, he said: "It is a wonderful theatre that puts on its own in-house production and I feel privileged to have been in the same venue that long."

Tickets start at £13.50 at norwichtheatre.org or call 01603 630000.

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