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Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds production of Cinderella hailed an 'absolute joy' after 22,333 tickets sold



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‘It has been an absolute joy’ – that is the verdict after the Theatre Royal’s highly successful pantomime season closed on Sunday.

Cinderella delighted 22,333 people at 85 shows over eight weeks, signalling a resounding return to form after 2020’s pantomime was postponed due to the pandemic.

For Owen Calvert-Lyons, artistic director, it was his first pantomime season at the Westgate Street theatre after taking on his role in June 2020.

Cinderella at Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds (54321951)
Cinderella at Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds (54321951)

“It has been a wonderful experience. Cinderella is a great story to tell and I couldn’t have hoped for eight more wonderful actors to work with and such a great team here at the Theatre Royal. And it has been a huge team effort,” he said.

“It has been a really challenging environment in which to make theatre in all sorts of ways.

“Covid meant we had the threat looming over us all the time that the production could be cancelled, which would have been absolutely devastating.

Cinderella at Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds (54321986)
Cinderella at Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds (54321986)

“The pantomime brings us the income to allow us to run for the rest of the year. The stakes were very high in those terms.

“So we had all sorts of procedures in place. Every one of our backstage team had to learn their job and the jobs of one or two other people in case anyone came down with covid.

“We were very fortunate none of our cast caught covid, but in our young chorus about a third contracted it during the run.

“It meant some were missing for rehearsals or some for shows. Our dance captain sometimes had to re-work whole dance sequences just before the show started. Most of the time the audience would never have known.”

Cinderella at Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds (54321959)
Cinderella at Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds (54321959)

In addition to the challenges of Covid-19, Brexit caused the cost of materials to ‘rocket’ and made some items difficult to get hold of.

“Brexit meant the cost of materials has rocketed, such as pyros – which we used for an explosion when the fairy came on stage – were hard to get hold of.

“Every aspect has meant more work for us this year, but it was completely worth it,” said Owen.

“One: The panto has our biggest audience reach – 22,333 people saw it which is extraordinary. It is wonderful for us to have brought joy to so many over Christmas.

Cinderella at Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds (54321966)
Cinderella at Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds (54321966)

“Two: The panto is the fuel that allows us to run this theatre for the rest of the year. Financially, it has been a great success and we have made real headway pulling out of the financial challenges of the past two years.”

“The feedback has been wonderful, with so many people telling us they’ve been coming to the panto for years and this was their favourite.”

And while it is still another 10 months before 2022/23 pantomime The Legend of Robin Hood opens, almost 5,000 tickets have sold already.

Cinderella at Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds (54321989)
Cinderella at Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds (54321989)

“We are really lucky that so many people who saw Cinderella were moved to buy tickets for the next panto,” added Owen.

Book at www.theatreroyal.org or call 01284 769505.

Pantomime statistics:

  • 22,333 tickets sold
  • 85 performances
  • 39 schools attended with a total of 4,017 tickets for students and teachers
  • 16 young people formed the chorus aged from nine to 11
  • 2,408 volunteer hours provided by 80 volunteer stewards – some of whom stewarded 10-plus shows. They knew all the words and jokes so well they could probably have been an understudy.
  • 150 free community tickets provided to community groups such Women’s Aid Bury, Julians Support, Bury Drop In, Suffolk Mind and families going through family court, as part of the Beyond Walls project funded by Arts Council England
  • 2, 975 ice creams sold, with the favourite flavour being vanilla