The annual King’s Theatre panto is a joyful highlight of the capital’s festive celebrations. With so many flocking to see Beauty and the Beast this year, the show’s run brought huge amount of joy to those of all ages. Last month, Capital Theatres was able to extend a very special invite to some deserving local children and their parents. The families, who are being supported by CCLASP (Children with Cancer and Leukaemia Advice & Support for Parents), took part in a truly memorable behind the scenes experience and interactive workshop. I spoke to Catrin Sheridan, Learning & Participation Coordinator at Capital Theatres, to find out more about the initiative.

TF: How did the workshop and the connection with CCLASP come about?

Catrin: King’s Theatre reached out to CCLASP, they come along to the panto every year bringing a large group. We also have a residency at Sick Kids, providing a two week programme of workshops and a bespoke panto performance in the hospital every year, called Panto Presents. So it made sense to make a link across to another charity also working in the hospital. Around thirty children and parents were involved in total. An open call was made via the CCLASP website, with tickets offered on a first come, first served basis. We would have loved to have offered more, but due to the restrictions of the set size, we had to limit it to that number. The event was made possible due to the generous support of Rowan Glen, who covered a percentage of the tickets, the workshops costs and the materials, as well as sponsoring the panto as a whole. Without them we wouldn’t have been able to do it at all.

TF: What was involved in the session?

Catrin: We had a two hour workshop and were lucky enough to get permission from the production company, Kudos, to do it on the stage itself, as on Mondays there’s no panto. Schools weren’t back yet, so it meant there was a really good turn out. CCLASP had been to see the show the night before, so it was wonderful they were able to see the set up close the next day. We started off with a tour, taking a look at some of the props and quick change areas. Then we went under the stage to have a look at the hidden secrets that make panto work, we had lots of comments about it being less glamorous close up!

After the tour, we came back up on stage and did some ensemble building pieces and warm ups, helping everyone relax into the session. It was also important to get everyone used to the space, especially as the stage is raked. We had a lot of fun playing loads of panto games: Beat the Beast (sneaking the rose away from the beast), and creating Villain Laughs, Monster Faces and Character Walks (Belle’s non gender stereotypical karate moves were especially popular). It was lovely to see the children arrive super sleepy and leave massively energised.

TF: Is this something you plan to repeat next year?

Catrin: Potentially, yes. We are always looking for ways to enrich the experiences of those who come to see our shows, and we would definitely hope to do this, or something similar again in the future.
Tony Gallagher, Rowan Glen Sales Manager, said: “The pantomime brings so much enjoyment to families and we are proud that Rowan Glen’s support helped to create some special memories for the families from CCLASP (Children with Cancer and Leukaemia Advice & Support for Parents). Seeing the smiles on the children’s faces makes us feel privileged to have played a small part in this experience.

Photo courtesy of Phil Wilkinson