Enjoying the fun of Bognor Regis panto

The cast
The cast

Kate Richards stepped into panto in Bognor Regis at very short notice a couple of years ago when the Wicked Queen went off ill in Snow White.

“I came and covered it,” Kate recalls. “It’s quite frightening when you don’t know the script and you don’t know the cast and you have got to come on and play the part.”

The first show was difficult, but she likes to think the second show was seamless – and nice preparation her first full panto stint in the town, Beauty and The Beast at the Alexandra Theatre.

“In my head, when I was offered the job, I remembered it as being a really nice intimate little theatre and that it had a really nice vibe about it.

“The whole thing felt very family orientated, and certainly for pantomime that’s what you want. Pantomime is a part of the theatre where you want a really good, really strong connection with the audience. The audience are so vital to panto.”

As for Kate, well, as she says, she just adores panto: “It’s absolutely my thing. The children come to the theatre. For many of them, it is the first time they have been to the theatre, and these are all the stories they have grown up with, and we have got to make them real.

“It feels like it is our duty to make these stories come to life, to give the children the chance to interact with these stories, to really feel part of it all. I remember that’s so important from when I used to go to panto.”

Kate recalls the first pantomime she ever saw was Cinderella at the Palladium starring Danny la Rue when she was four year old.

“I remember very little about it, just the lights and the colour and the sparkle of it all. And then I did my first panto as a juve when I was seven in (her home town) Weston-super-Mare. And I have pretty much been doing panto ever since.”

At sixteen she went on to complete her training at Laine Theatre Arts, Epsom, graduating in 1992 with a diploma in dance and musical theatre and various teaching qualifications to her credit.

“There are countries that just don’t get panto,” Kate concedes. “But it’s so traditional here, and it is so book and story-orientated. I have got children now, and we just grow up on these stories. You have got these wonderful characters who are bigger than life. Maybe it’s just that we all like to escape.

“My daughter is nearly 12, and my son will be nine at Christmas. Last year was the first time I haven’t done pantomime by choice. I had Christmas with my family, and I missed pantomime hugely. I went to two or three pantos, but I knew I just had to get back to it.”

And the children are happy to accept that.

“They just think that it is what mummy does. My daughter has now announced that she wants to be a real actress, not like mummy – a real actress and not just panto!”

Most of the time, Kate is a singer. She has appeared as a backing singer for P P Arnold in The Convention at the Bloomsbury Theatre, London and also as a featured soloist and backing singer with the reformed 80s band Modern Romance. Kate also tours extensively with her own solo cabaret show and has recorded two albums which are available from her website, www.katerichards.biz. She also runs a children’s theatre company which goes into schools.

Beauty and The Beast is at the Alexandra Theatre at the Regis Centre, Bognor, from Monday, December 12-Monday, January 2. Tickets on www.alexandratheatre.co.uk 01243 861010.

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