Sunday, 1 May 2022

The UK Pantomime Awards: A Roundup!

The UK Pantomime Awards were held on Tuesday 19th April at the beautifully refurbished Trafalgar Theatre in the heart of London’s West End celebrating the achievements of the 2021/22 season where Venues and Producers had to battle to keep the shows on as Covid symptoms affected cast, crew and front of house staff. It was a magnificent opportunity to share stories and applaud successes with all the major Pantomime Producers and many of the in-House shows being represented there. The main sponsors Butlins added to the fun with four redcoats on the red carpet and assisting in the Awards.

Of course, there are over 200 professional Pantomime each year, so the competition was fierce with shows nominated from across the breadth of the UK from the Millennium Forum in Londonderry (Best Panto 900+) in the West to the New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich in the East of England (Best Panto 900+) to Eden Court Inverness (Best Panto under 500 seats) in the North to the Octagon Yeovil (Best Principal Girl nominee) in the Southwest and all places in between.

Pocket Size Theatre extensively covers the Pantomime season each year and many of the shows we reviewed were up for Awards including Bonnie Langford for Best Mythical Being in Sleeping Beauty at the Churchill Bromley, Oonagh Cox for Best Principal Girl at Richmond Theatre, Anthony England for Best Musical Direction at Mayflower, Southampton, Mark Dickman for Best Musical Direction alongside Best Newcomer nominee Julie Jupp at Hackney Empire’s Jack and the Beanstalk and another newcomer nominee, Georgia Grant- Anderson at the Lighthouse Poole. South Hill Park’s Cinderella was up for Best Pantomime (under 500 seats), Theatre Royal Bath’s Cinderella for Best Pantomime (500-900 seats) and Reading’s Hexagon production of Beauty and the Beast for Best Pantomime (900 plus seats).

As was said early and often this ceremony was a celebration of Pantomime and all the nominees were winners, but nothing can surely beat having your name called out and going on stage to collect an award.

First up were Duncan Burt and Nic Gibney as the winners of Best Ugly sisters at the Theatre Royal Bath to receive their Award from the wonderful grandee of Pantomime Nigel Ellacott and the brilliant Dame and Director, Andrew Ryan.

Clive Rowe, another of the great modern Dames presented the Award for Best Dame of the year to Morgan Brind, for his performance in Sleeping Beauty and the Derby Arena.

Max Fulham and his cheeky monkey Gordon nearly stole the show with a brilliant short routine as they presented best Villain to Rolan Bell for Aladdin at Cambridge Arts Theatre.

The Best Choreography Award was presented by Bernie Tiller, grandson of the Tiller Girls founder with one of the current girls Becky Bassett adding some real glamour to Jonny Bowles for his work on Goldilocks and Three Bears at Grand Opera House in Belfast.

The Carmen Silvera Award for Best Mythical Being (in recognition of the Allo Allo star) was presented by Vicki Michelle to the amazing Alexandra Burke for her role in Aladdin at Manchester Opera House and she sent a lovely message from her tour of Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat.

This year there was a Digital Award recognising those who made their shows available as a digital stream either as a made for streaming or an adapted capture of a live show with the winner being Jack and the Beanstalk from New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich.

Another special moment was when Scott Mitchell presented the Barbara Windsor Award for Best Principal Boy to Dominic Sibanda for Sleeping Beauty at Lyceum, Sheffield.

Rob Rinder won Best Newcomer to Pantomime for Snow White and Seven dwarfs at Bristol Hippodrome and Becca Lee-Isaacs (a 2020 drama school graduate ) won the best newcomer early career for her role in Robin Hood at the Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield.

The big winners of the night were Robin Hood at Everyman Theatre in Liverpool for Best Panto (under 500 seats) and Best Musical direction, Jamie Noar; Aladdin at Lyric Hammersmith for Best Pantomime (500-900 seats), Best Script, Vikki Stone and Best Supporting Artist, Kate Donnachie and Jack and the Beanstalk at Marlowe Canterbury for Best Panto (over 900 seats) and Best Direction, Paul Hendy.

There were some special recognition rewards to reflect the ethos of the new charity in celebrating tradition, innovation, and achievements. These went to Justin Fletcher and Paul Morse for their brilliant comic partnership at the Hexagon Reading including a fabulous version of the Balloon ballet, the Showstoppers of Justin Brett, Susan Harrison, and Ali James at Corn Exchange Newbury for their improvised songs each show and to the wonderful Joe Tracini for his promotion and representation of Mental Health in the Norwich Theatre. Nigel Ellacott returned to the stage at the end of the show to collect Outstanding contributions to Pantomime for his performances as Ugly Sister and Dame since 1974 and his work promoting and protecting the traditions through

The show featured Gracie McGonigal reprising her song from the Lyric Hammersmith show, a tribute to Understudies and Swings who kept so many shows going during the season, the very naughty Myra DuBios in a hilarious version of “I know him so well” and the Butlins production of Goldilocks and the three bears with Michael Batchelor.

The UK Pantomime Association has been developed to celebrate Pantomime by investigating the genre's rich past, engaging with contemporary practice, and inspiring the future. All activities of the Association are oversighted by a group of Trustees who, collectively, have significant experience in overseeing high-quality initiatives within Pantomime, Education, and the Arts. Trustees of the newly formed Association aim to bring together those who have an interest in Pantomime, both amateur and professional, and share resources and expertise. The UKPA however is not just about the Awards, but also seeks to establish regular events and opportunities to learn more about the history, practice, and tradition of panto with plans to introduce a programme of conferences and outreach events.

As a national treasure, Biggins, who masterly compared the show said at the end, We will have to do it all again next year won’t we!

Article by Nick Wayne

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