The Wokingham Paper

A warm welcome awaits at Wargrave Theatre's pantomime, Anatasia

Wargrave Theatre Workshop
Some of the cast of Anatasia, which is performed by Wargrave Theatre Workshop this Janauary Picture: Phil Creighton

IT’S THOUGHT to be the first pantomime to be based on real-life events and organisers of the show are hoping you won’t give it the cold shoulder when it’s performed next week. 

Members of Wargrave Theatre Workshop have been busy over the past few months preparing to present its version of Anatasia, a story based on one of the greatest mysteries of the 20th century – what happened to the lost Russian princes? 

The fast-moving show starts in the opulence of the Russian Empire, heads into the poverty of the Revolution and ends up in the magnificence of 1920s Paris. 

A full-cast play, it is sure to tickle the funnybones while bringing the community together. 

The hotly-anticipated play is directed by Linda Daman, who is enjoying the experience. 

“It’s a pantomime with a plot, which is quite unusual,” she said. “The challenge we have is to get the action in and the funny bits too.”

Some of the story is quite dark, but the pantomime, by necessity, glosses over some of that to ensure that it’s a family-friendly treat. 

And like all good pantos, it’s a travel-hopping special.

“It’s an opportunity to go to Russia, enjoy some Russian songs and Russian costumes,” Linda says, adding that some of the Matryoshka nesting dolls also feature as part of the show. “It contrasts with Paris.”

Linda takes her role as director seriously and spent Christmas visiting three different professional pantomimes. 

“I went for pleasure, but you do pick up ideas, particularly costume ideas,” she explains. “It’s interesting to see how a professional show differs to an amateur one. They can almost be a bit rigid in what they do, and with fewer people. 

“We have 25 adults on our stage.”

Add to that schoolchildren and you’ll understand why there are three choreographers on duty. 

She continues: “It’s a responsibility. I like to give everybody something. The very busy chorus also get as much of a chance to entertain as the stars of the show. If everybody has something they’re happy and have a good work ethic.”

And Wargrave Theatre Workshop has a long history of pantomime – this is the sixth that Linda has directed, and she’s aware of the responsibility she faces to make ‘em laugh. 

“I want Anatasia to be a success,” she says. “Tickets for Wargrave pantos sell like hotcakes, everyone looks to go to it. 

“We have to make it as good as it was in previous years, but also different. I always try and bring something new to it, change the format slightly and try things in different places to keep it fresh.”

Anastasia The Pantomime is performed at Woodclyffe Hall in Wargrave on Wednesday, January 22 to Sunday, January 26. Curtain up is at 8pm Wednesday to Saturday, with a 1pm and 4pm matinee on Saturday and a 1pm matinees on Sunday. For more details, or to book tickets, log on to or call 0333 666 3366.

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