Great Britain

Drama Unlimited pressing on with panto plans

WHILE the fate of this year’s Alhambra pantomime has yet to be decided, another Bradford panto is bouncing back for 2021.

Drama Unlimited has announced the cast of its next panto - Dick Whittington - and plans to stage it at Bradford Playhouse in its usual February half-term slot.

Following social distancing measures, auditions were held at Bradford Playhouse last weekend and a cast of talented local performers was chosen for Dick Whittington, directed by former Bradford Playhouse artistic director Carl Murray and Lucy Stephenson.

The principals will be joined on stage by a host of junior talent from Denholme’s Dance Factory under the artistic leadership of choreographer Kathryn Ford.

Says Carl: “Drama Unlimited has been producing pantomimes in the city for over 40 years and we’re not going to let Covid-19 beat us. We were thrilled to have so many locals turn up to audition.

“We’re obviously taking the risk that theatres will be able to re-open by February 2021, however without putting plans in place now we would not be ready.

“It would be such a shame if pantomime wasn’t allowed to happen this season and, as a small company, we may be able to offer something to the people of Bradford even if the larger theatres are financially restricted in doing so.”

Bradford College theatre studies student Corin Ward, who has been cast as Alderman Fitzwarren, says: “I’m grateful to be given such an opportunity. Theatre is my life and I can’t wait to get back to the stage!”

Both cast and crew are excited to get cracking with what is already being billed as one of the theatre company’s “best pantomimes yet”.

Last year’s Drama Unlimited production of Sleeping Beauty smashed its box office records, making it “Bradford’s biggest amateur pantomime”, says Carl.

Drama Unlimited is one of Bradford’s longest-running amateur dramatics societies. Originally formed in 1976 as the in-store amateur theatre group at Bradford department store Brown Muff & Co Ltd, it has been putting on pantomimes and plays every year since.

The 2021 panto follows the story of Dick Whittington and his cat, based on the real-life Richard Whittington (1354-1423), wealthy merchant and later Lord Mayor of London.

Says Carl: “The legend describes his rise from a poverty-stricken childhood with the fortune he made through the sale of his cat to a rat-infested country. However, the real Whittington did not come from a poor family and there’s no evidence supporting stories about the cat - or even whether he owned one. Another element in the legend is that Dick attempted to flee his service as a scullion one night, heading towards home but was dissuaded by the sound of the Bow Bells, promising he would be mayor of London one day.

“Since the pre-Victorian era, the story has been a favourite of British pantomime.”

l Dick Whittington is scheduled to run at Bradford Playhouse in Little Germany from February 17-20, 2021. Visit bradfordplayhouse.org.uk

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