BAFTA-winning writer pens Roses panto
By David Wood
Christmas has come early for a theatre in Gloucestershire, in the shape of a brand new pantomime by a BAFTA-winning scriptwriter.
Maurice Gran has co-written some of the UK's most-loved TV sitcoms including Birds of a Feather, Goodnight Sweetheart and The New Statesman. Now he has turned his hand to creating a brand new show for The Roses Theatre in Tewkesbury.
King Arthur: The Panto! is Maurice's first panto, co-written with actor, performer and playwright Nick Wilkes, currently touring the country in a production of Willy Russell's Blood Brothers.
The curtain will rise on the first performance of King Arthur on Saturday, November 27 - a world premiere for the Roses Theatre!
Set in Medieval Tewkesbury, King Arthur tells the tale of a humble baker's boy who is destined for greater things in life. Naturally, the path to glory is never straightforward and before he can fulfil his destiny, the hero must overcome his nemesis, Morgana Le Fey, and a big, scary dragon.
Maurice said: "There used to be only six pantomimes...now there are seven. The idea of doing Arthur actually came from Nick. We had various ideas. Because of the town's connection to the Wars of the Roses we nearly wrote a panto version of Richard III.
"But we decided the story of Arthur would work really well for Tewkesbury, as it's such an amazing place with incredible architecture and so much history, a great undiscovered cradle of English civilisation."
The writer, who has lived in Gloucestershire since 1993, was asked to join the theatre's board a few years ago, and said he was more than happy to contribute in this way to the Roses' success.
"I don't want to sound like a bighead, but I don't think a BAFTA winner has written a panto before," he added. "But if you're trying to support an institution that you care about, then why not use your skill to do it?"
"The Dame is Ma Baker, cue the song. One of the first radio shows I worked on, back in 1977, was for Frankie Howerd. We wrote him a monologue about doing a bread commercial, so we had to think up all the double entendres around bread and baps and 'show us your French stick'. So nothing goes to waste."
Ben Eagle will be donning some outrageous frocks for the fourth time at The Roses in the role of the Dame.
Ben said: "Ma Baker is a very sexy lady, obviously. Extremely attractive and the most promising bachelorette in Gloucestershire this Christmas, she is Arthur's mother and runs the village bakery -
she's famous for her baps. She is on the lookout, though for a new man. Take that as a warning for any men sitting in the front rows.
"The script is written by Maurice Gran, and so I knew it would be good fun. It feels fresh, with some great set pieces and jokes which I know the Tewkesbury audiences will enjoy.
"It's filled with silliness, high-stakes drama and a very funny scene with some 'sword in the stone' action."
Jessica Brewster, director of The Roses added: "We have a superb pantomime this year, characterised by Maurice's trademark wit and humour, combined with wonderful sing-a-longs, a great cast and creative staging that includes lots of visual references to Tewkesbury.
"Additionally, we are super proud to have an all-female creative team for the first time ever, a brilliant cast with the same number of women as men on the stage, and of course a fabulous female villain!
"Our show offers a couple of hours of perfect escapism, ensured to get the whole family into the Christmas spirit."
King Arthur runs between Saturday 27 November and Friday 31 December. Tickets can be bought on The Roses website www.rosestheatre.org , by calling the box office on 01684 295074 or in person at the theatre on Sun Street, Tewkesbury, GL20 5NX.
King Arthur: The Panto! is kindly sponsored by Thomson & Bancks Solicitors.
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