Blue Peter legend Peter Duncan dares to bring panto to Christmas 2020 - Liam Rudden

Peter Duncan brings panto online in Jack and the BeanstalkPeter Duncan brings panto online in Jack and the Beanstalk
Peter Duncan brings panto online in Jack and the Beanstalk
DICK Turpin will ride again. Oh yes he will! Only a year later than expected. Yes, the last standing pantomime of my 2020/21 panto tour has finally been pushed back to 2021/22.

It wasn’t unexpected, in truth, I suspect it was pulled many weeks ago, the venue being an ATG theatre choosing to announce their cancellations through a series of month by month rolling announcements rather than on a show by show basis, protecting those box office staff not on furlough from being overwhelmed.

Dick Turpin Rides Again was due to gallop on to the stage York’s Grand Opera House, bringing with it legendary panto dame Berwick Kaler and his record-breaking cast hot foot from the nearby Theatre Royal after an acrimonious parting of the ways. Berwick’s annual ‘load of rubbish’ - his words not mine - always ends my annual panto tour.

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It’s a tour that takes me the length and breadth of the country each year, from London to Arbroath, Newcastle to Aberdeen and even Berwick Upon Tweed. Some are bigger than others, packed with glitz and glamour and a price tag of a million pounds to stage. Others are mend and make do affairs, which often understand the genre better than their star-studded counterparts. That said, pantos have been reinvented through the years to become the cash cows they have now become for venues around the UK.

That is why the postponement of almost every panto in the land due to Covid is a catastrophe. Postponement is the wrong word really, the shows may be being pushed back, but no matter how you look at it, a year’s lost revenue is in effect a cancellation. As our own King’s Theatre, currently battling for its own survival, has discovered, that lost box office is impossible to replace.

Social distancing put paid to any slim chance of mainstream pantos going ahead this year.

By their very nature they rely on the camaraderie of big ensemble casts and closely packed audiences who are eager to boo the baddies, cheer the goodies, sing along and shout out the age old retorts - Oh yes... Okay, sorry, done that one already.

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Many alternative small scale so called ‘Covid aware pantos’ are popping up to replace the real thing but are unlikely to be anything close to those we’ve lost.

There is some good news however. London’s National Theatre has announced it is to resurrect its acclaimed pantomime Dick Whittington for one year only. I’ll be there.

For those looking for something a bit closer to home to keep their family panto tradition alive, let me recommend Blue Peter legend Peter Duncan’s Jack and the Beanstalk, the UK’s first pantomime filmed entirely on location, to be watched online by families over Christmas.

Earlybird tickets, £15 each, are now on sale at, the panto will be available to watch as many times as you like from 4 December and 10 January

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