Pompey panto stars at The Kings Theatre promise to deliver a huge Christmas party

IN A year dominated by bad news, The Kings Theatre is determined to bring everyone a bit of Christmas cheer.

Tuesday, 6th October 2020, 4:09 pm
The stars of The Kings Theatre's 2020 'Pompey panto', Dick Whittington
From left: Julia Worsley as Queen Rat, Sean Smith as Dick Whittington, Marlene Little Hill as Fairy Bowbells, Jack Edwards as Dame Dolly, and James Percy as Silly Billy
Picture: Andrew Searle Photography, AndrewSearlePhotography.co.uk
The stars of The Kings Theatre's 2020 'Pompey panto', Dick Whittington From left: Julia Worsley as Queen Rat, Sean Smith as Dick Whittington, Marlene Little Hill as Fairy Bowbells, Jack Edwards as Dame Dolly, and James Percy as Silly Billy Picture: Andrew Searle Photography, AndrewSearlePhotography.co.uk

With so many other shows cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Southsea venue is putting on Dick Whittington, which it describes as ‘the only panto on the south coast.’

The theatre, in Albert Road, is producing the pantomime itself for the first time and has pulled together a top-notch cast

Jack Edwards returns as Dame Dolly. He said: ‘We are the only panto on the south coast, which is pretty cool. We’ve called it the Pompey panto, but we do want people to come from other areas, and we do want it to be for everyone.

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From left: Sean Smith as Dick Whittington, Julia Worsley as Queen Rat, Jack Edwards as Dame Dolly, Marlene Little Hill as Fairy Bowbells, and James Percy as Silly Billy Picture: Andrew Searle Photography, AndrewSearlePhotography.co.uk

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‘The beauty of it is that the cast are all West End standard – one of our guys, James Percy, has been out in Vegas, Imogen Bailey is going into Hairspray in the West End next year, and of course Sean Smith was in Same Difference.

‘We never realised how much talent there is in Portsmouth. Dare I say it, I think it will be one of the best shows we’ve ever done.

‘We cannot do without Christmas. There’s so much doom and gloom and everyone’s worried about whether they can see family, etc, but you can come to the panto and we will have our own Christmas party.’

The show will naturally abide by social distancing rules, with full hygiene and safety protocols in place.

The Kings’ chief executive Paul Woolf added: ‘If you come at something from the view of, what can we do? Rather what are we being stopped from doing, it’s amazing what you can achieve, and that’s been our attitude since April.

‘From when we got shut down I was only thinking about when we could reopen.

‘If you were to ask me why other theatres aren’t doing it, I couldn’t tell you. If we can do it, so can they. It’s whether you’re willing to take that risk – it’s the equation of risk to reward.

‘The worst case scenario is we lose a bit of money, but we’ve been open, and we’ve delivered a panto to Portsmouth, and that’s important because we’re a big part of the cultural scene - we’re a beacon, and that comes with a responsibility.

‘I get it that people are nervous, and it is a challenge to get people to come out and enjoy themselves, but that’s our challenge.

‘It is safe, it’s pretty cheap, it’s about encouraging everyone to get out of the house.

‘We’re just going to make it a party and as much fun as we can.

‘We are definitely open.

‘There will definitely be a panto unless the government says it can’t happen.’

Sean Smith, who grew up in Widley and was half of X Factor finalists with sister Sarah, is in the title role.

‘I’m a panto veteran nowadays – but this is my first one at The Kings. I feel more pressure than I normally would, partly because of the situation with Covid, but also because it’s my hometown. I want people to see me in a good light and know that I am a decent performer!

‘It’s going to be so, so special to do this at the end of a very tough year, particularly to do it here at The Kings.

‘I think the last time I was on the stage here was when I was a little kid when i did shows with the Portsmouth Players. I can’t wait to be out there again.’

Dick Whittington runs from November 28 to December 31. All tickets £20.