My First Panto Goes Digital to Provide Yuletide Family Fun!

The popular introduction to theatre for the youngest theatregoers is going digital this Christmas. My First Panto – Goldilocks and the Three Bears will provide a magical adventure for the under-sevens and any adults who want to join them too.

Due to the Covid-19 restrictions, the team behind the popular annual festive production at The Garage on Norwich’s Chapelfield North have opted to move it online this year allowing people to purchase tickets for a one-off performance or to buy it as a Yuletide treat for their families and friends to enjoy right across Christmas.

Adam Taylor, executive director at The Garage, said: “Safety has to be our number one consideration. My First Panto is something that is aimed at all ages and multiple generations enjoy the experience together every year in our auditorium. This year, we wanted to make sure that grandparents, parents and their children could all enjoy the pantomime experience securely and this way, everyone can be a part of the fun, excitement and laughter in their own bubbles to ensure this key part of the Christmas calendar still happens albeit in a slightly different way.”

Even though it will be enjoyed via a computer screen or Smart TV, all the elements of My First Panto which audiences love will remain.

A team of actor-musicians will bring the traditional story of Goldilocks to life with a twist. Norwich-based All-In Productions are setting the story in the Wild West where the Bear family live in total harmony.

Mama Bear, Papa Bear and Baby Bear live quite happily. Life is sweeter than an enormous jar of honey. But a mischievous wind is blowing down the prairie and with it the famous bandit, Goldilocks, who causes havoc while they are at Old Man Rogers’ annual rodeo. 

Expect laughter, fun, lots of songs and plenty of interactivity in the show which will star Hanna Khogali as Goldilocks. She boasts a strong acting career which includes roles in the UK tour of Once, Swallows and Amazons for York Theatre Royal, and Moll Flanders for the Mercury Theatre in Colchester.

She will be reunited with fellow former Once co-star James Pattison, who plays Papa Bear, and whose other roles include the UK tour of Eye of the Storm and The Hired Man, and the Last Ship which was performed across Britain and also took to the stage in Canada.

Completing the cast is TJ Holmes who will be bringing Mamma Bear to life. He last appeared in Norwich in the touring production of The Jungle Book which came to the Theatre Royal in 2018, with other previous credits including One Man Two Guvnors, Two Gentlemen of Verona, productions for the Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich and the renowned Watermill Theatre, and countless pantomimes often playing Dame.

The pantomime also boasts a strong creative team. It is being written and directed by Daniel Burgess, who started his performing career with the Norwich Theatre Royal Youth Company and has directed for the likes of the Finborough Theatre in London, The New Wolsey in Ipswich, and both the Latitude and Edinburgh Festivals.

Specially composed music for the show is being created by Norfolk’s Lloyd Gorman whose previous work includes Sunny Afternoon, Once, The Jungle Book and One Man Two Guvnors. Set design is by Kat Heath whose previous credits include The Importance of Being Earnest in the West End, The Redux Project for BBC Four, and tours of The Isle Of Brimsker and Macbeth, while the costumes will be created by Norwich’s Kirsteen Wythe who is known for the stunning garments she has created for the five most recent Norwich Theatre Royal pantomimes as well as children’s TV show Trapped and Channel Four comedy VIP.

The production will be filmed within the auditorium at The Garage by city-based Lambda Films and then be made available via Vimeo.

Daniel Burgess said: “We are keeping the fun, interactivity and charm of My First Panto this year while also ensuring those enjoying the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears can stay safe. For our younger audience, this will be their first experience of live theatre and so we wanted to make it memorable for them. As well as the show, we will have the usual blend of post-panto playtime fun offered virtually through online experiences via our website and social media too.”

The show is going global too, with interest from schools across the UK and into Europe. They are getting inquiries to buy digital access to the show from schools as far away from Norfolk as Canada, Spain and Scotland.

The production is aimed at 0-7-year-olds, their friends, and families.
Featuring a cast of actor-musicians who play all the roles, it also keeps the interactive element of all festive productions but in a different way.

Adam Taylor, executive director at The Garage, said: “The traditional festive trip to the pantomime has been off the time-table for many schools this year for obvious reasons. Equally pupils and staff still want a treat and schools are finding My First Panto is a way of making sure their pupils can still the joy of panto. The timing is flexible, pupils don’t need to have time outside the classroom and, even if a class bubble or school has to self-isolate due to an outbreak, the show can still be a part of the Christmas calendar at home.”

To buy tickets for the online stream, please log onto www.thegarage.org.uk/panto.