THEATRE legend Berwick Kaler wants to return to panto saying retiring was his “biggest mistake”.

And he – along with veteran star Suzy Cooper – have launched a scathing attack on this year’s production, singling out “cheap” sets and “expensive” tickets.

Suzy, 50, said this could be the last Theatre Royal panto because she fears management wants to axe the show. She would like Berwick to come back and the long-running panto to continue.

Theatre bosses refute the criticism, saying the same budget was spent on this year’s panto and that more under-£20 tickets have been available than in the past five years.

They refused to comment on the future of Berwick’s role or the panto saying an announcement would be made next month.


The pantomime, which runs for seven weeks, is one of the biggest earners for the theatre accounting for around half its annual revenue.

Berwick, 73, retired last year after 40 years at the helm. He wrote and directed this year’s Sleeping Beauty, which is running until January 25, but wants to stage a comeback.

He said: “I made the biggest mistake saying I was going to retire,” adding: “I want to jump out of my suit and perform.”

Despite writing and directing this year’s show, Berwick is critical of the production. “Things have not gone well and is not the fault of the cast. The sets do not do what the script requires.

“We have the most wonderful, experienced actors for a panto. It’s a shame the Theatre Royal went down the road of cheap sets and cheap costumes.”

And he said the future of the panto was uncertain.

“I don’t know if they [the cast] are going to be invited back or not.” And he confirmed that management had not been in touch with him to discuss the future.


Suzy, 50, who first joined the panto 27 years ago, said: “We don’t know if we are coming back. Our fear is that this is our last year.”

She added: “It’s hard to go out there singing and dancing knowing the carpet is being pulled from underneath you. We really care about our audiences.”

And she would like Berwick back: “He should be in it - he’s like a tank. There is so much life in the man considering he’s had a double heart bypass a few years ago.”

She also expressed concern about ticket sales and prices this year.

“They are selling less tickets this year and it is my belief they put ticket prices up.”

Tom Bird, executive director of the theatre, refuted the criticisms. “We have invested as much as we always do,” adding the panto was more accessible this year with more £15 tickets available.

He said ticket sales were expected to be down on last year, which was billed as Berwick’s final panto, but were not far off budget.

He said: “There is still a long way to go in the run because we are playing until January 25. People still have opportunities to book and we still have £15 seats.” He added the theatre would be revealing details of the next festive show at the beginning of February.