Panto Returns to Southborough Today

The panto “Dick Whittington’s Adventures in Southborough” opens tonight in the new Southborough Football Pavillion promising fun for all ages.

Starring Emily Cooper (pictured below) as Dick Whittington, it runs for 3 days starting on Friday 13 January with 5 performances including matinees at Noon on Saturday and Sunday.

Panto Dick W

Dick Whittington travels “all the way from Tonbridge to Southborough because I thought the streets were paved with gold.”

Martin Collis (below), who plays Thomas the cat, says it is the tenth pantomime he’s performed in.  He says: “I am the hero of this story because I slay the rats.”

Panto Cat 2

Tickets can be booked through thecommunitypanto.eventbrite.co.uk. The Friday evening opening performance is at 7pm, while  Saturday and Sunday evening shows are at 5pm.

The rats are played by Harrison Wheeler, Lea Lowe and Jacob Murray (all below).

Panto Rats

Meanwhile Oscar Collis (below) plays the Mayor of Southborough.

Panto Mayor

And Rosie Mellerick (below) is Fanny Fitzwarren.Panto Fanny

Last year’s Southborough panto was held at the new Southborough Civic Centre, which replaced the Royal Victoria Hall – home of theatre and panto for the town for the previous hundred years.

The panto director and producer, Nell Price (below) told Southborough News she was disappointed that – this year – they hadn’t been able to return to the much larger new hall in Southborough Civic Centre.

Panto Nell

Nell Price said: “We absolutely loved having our panto in the Civic Centre last year – but unfortunately this year we couldn’t come to an agreement with Southborough Town Council for being able to use the space in a long term plan.  We just can’t afford to hire it at the cost it is at the moment.”

Nell Price explained: “We are a Community Pantomime. We don’t charge “show fees”. We try to make it as inclusive as possible, so everybody can take part, so they are not excluded because they can’t afford it.”

Actors – and parents of child actors – often pay “show fees” to productions for the privilege of being in the show.  Without such fees, it means there are no initial funds for the production to pay advance booking fees to the Town Council.

Panto promo

Nell Price says: “Luckily we have got the Tunbridge Wells Youth Football club that have very kindly allowed us to use their pavilion, so long may it be in Southborough.”  The Football Club are not charging the panto for hire of their hall, but the club will benefit from increased bar and snack sales.

Last year, Southborough Town Council let the panto use the Civic Centre space for free.  Nell Price says the deal that the panto offered the Council was that any profit they made (including profits on a bar and refreshments) would go to the Town Council.

At the previous location of the Angel Centre, the panto had built up a big following and made a profit of several thousand pounds.  Nell Price argues that would actually be a larger return in the long run for the Town Council than the fixed hire fee they wanted up front.  But her arguments only managed to persuade a couple of members of the Town Council and the plan was rejected.

The current annual losses of running the new Southborough Civic Centre are funded by the council tax payers of Southborough. But the council says in the next year the Civic Centre’s facilities will be radically improved by a bar and a cinema screen, which should bring in increased revenue.

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