A THEATRE in Portsmouth has launched its Christmas panto - and it has a part reserved for the burglars who ransacked its office.
The Groundlings Theatre, in Kent Street, is set to continue with its production of Jack and the Beanstalk despite the setback, which saw the burglars pour bleach into the office server and make-off with a safe containing more than £800.
The damage meant the theatre has been left working to recover scripts, production material, and cast lists for all of its upcoming productions.
Artistic director Richard Stride said he had a role for the culprits - playing the evil dragon in this year’s pantomime.
He said: 'We have not cast the evil dragon yet - so as penance maybe they can be in all 54 shows as the dragon.
'I think they would prefer prison.’
But the theatre has found a pot of gold in the form of community support, with a fundraising page for the theatre raising more than £1,000 in less than 24 hours.
Richard said: 'I'm gobsmacked.
'I didn't think we'd get so much support.
‘So I want to say a big thank you to everyone who has donated and offered to help.’
The theatre is appealing for support from graphic designers and printing businesses.
Portsmouth City Council is working with the theatre on a long-term package of financial support.
Richard added: 'It costs more than £35,000 to put on Jack and Beanstalk - and that's a shoestring budget for pantomime.
The theatre has put together a cast from theatre, television, and short films to portray Jack, Jill, the Dame, and the Vegetable Fairy in this year’s production.
It will be the first pantomime performance for Travis Booth-Millard, who grew up in Bishops Waltham and will be playing Jack.
He said: 'I'm born and bred around here, and I can't wait to be in show.
‘The amount of people who want to come and see me in the show will fill the audience twice over.'
Jack and the Beanstalk will run from Wednesday December 4 to Sunday January 5.