East Lancashire pantomimes protect traditional roles

Burnley and Pendle Citizen: Lestyn Edwards as the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella King George's Hall.  Picture by Paul Heyes Lestyn Edwards as the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella King George's Hall. Picture by Paul Heyes

PANTOMIMES in East Lancashire are ‘leading the way’ in protecting the traditions of the centuries-old craft.

Shows across the region are opting to retain the role of the dame despite a national decrease according to the new National Database of Pantomime Performance.

Pantos in East Lancashire have resisted this new trend with Blackburn and Burnley’s performance of Cinderella both including a dame.

The database also shows only around a tenth of the 251 professional shows this season have female ‘principal boys’.

The performance of Mother Goose in Clitheroe also includes the role.

Nick Wymer, who has taken on the dame role in the Clitheroe production, said: “It’s a vital role for a traditional panto and I think it’s important they are retained in future.

“It’s a shame a lot of producers are dropping them in favour of hiring a big celebrity or soap star to fill a principal role.

“The challenge with Mother Goose is that the dame is the main role and people don’t want to see a celeb dressed as a dame because they might not be recognisable to children.

“I think it will come back in future years but it’s a shame children are being given fewer opportunities to see more traditional pantomimes.”

Hazel Hodder, chairman of Burnley Pantomime Society, said: “Pantomimes in East Lancashire are leading the way in keeping traditions that make shows what they are.

“The role of the dame is central to pantomimes and all good ones have one, or a form of one.

“I hope this national trend stops and is reversed but I certainly have not come across it in East Lancashire.”

Tim Lince, artistic director of Mother Goose in Clitheroe and Aladdin in Blackburn, said: “Having a traditional pantomime in the community is extremely important and they have been family favourites for centuries.

“We always get offered thousands of reality TV stars each year to fill roles but we are only interested in actors who can actually play the parts.

“It seems that more traditional pantos are on the decline but that does not seem to be the case in East Lancashire.”

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