The Panto is Back in Epsom!
The Panto is Back in Epsom!
As Epsom Playhouse gears up for its Christmas spectacular, Beauty and the Beast, we talk to the cast and creatives about their joy at the return of panto…
After the longest off-season theatre has experienced since World War II, Epsom Playhouse is back with a little something to cheer everyone up, and its rip-roaring new family panto, Beauty and the Beast, is shaping up to be a cracker.
Staged by Spillers Pantomimes, its cast includes former EastEnder Ricky Groves, and an array of young talent from local dance and acting schools, such as Epsom’s Francesca Rimoldi as Belle and Jake Pearse as the Beast as well as Epsom Playhouse veteran Jamie Bannerman.
THE MAN BEHIND IT ALL
Bev Berridge of Spillers Pantomimes is a man of many talents. He’s the producer who puts everything together and sources the set design and costumes. He’s the casting director. He’s the liaison officer between his company and the theatre staff. And on top of all that, he’s also the director.
But it’s not easy to go back to normal after the “unprecedented times”. Explains Berridge: “The rug got pulled from under our feet. It was heartbreaking. But we are over the moon to be back, and delighted that there’s a new impetus.”
The past year has been as cruel to Epsom Playhouse as to any other venue in the country. It has been getting back up onto its feet with one-nighters and smaller shows, but its first full-size undertaking is to be Beauty and The Beast, running throughout the four-week Christmas period.
LAST YEAR’S SUCCESS
To add some (all)spice, last year’s Peter Pan was a massive success, winning the title of The UK’s Best Panto 2019/2020 at The Great British Pantomime Awards. A hard act to follow? “No, we never feel the pressure now. We love it. It doesn’t faze us at all. There will be great dances and great singing and great acting and this year shall be an even bigger hit” says Berridge.
STARS IN THE CAST
Former EastEnder Ricky Groves, who plays Lumiere, is equally excited to be on stage again. We meet the cast in late September. He tells us: “We’ve all just met each other today for the first time! And now it’s starting to become reality”.
Epsom Playhouse has been home to many exciting theatre ventures for the past 30 years. “It is fabulous. It’s intimate. It’s love” laughs Berridge. “It’s like doing a show in your living room. They’re there, they’re right there! But what’s also important is that our show is not a West End priced show. But it is a West End style show.”
Indeed, Berridge and his team focus on quality and style. “There are lots of fun twists on this classic tale that everyone knows and loves. It’s so important for families with young children to get their first experience of theatre during this magical Christmas time. We have the fantastic Lumiere who brings tons of comical fun to the show. And obviously a big, scary beast as well – claws and fangs but also deeply sensitive”.
Theatre has been kept afloat thanks to love, passion and imagination – as well as some online programmes, which, while they provided some outlet for creativity, were not enough. “We completely missed the audience, very much so,” says Berridge.
Beauty and The Beast will run from Saturday 11 December to Monday 3 January 2022. A relaxed performance with adapted sound and lighting will take place on Tuesday 14 December.