THEATRE Royal bosses says they have had to take a decision over the future of the pantomime "with a very heavy heart".

Tom Bird, executive director, says a new creative team will be appointed and the current stars of the show will not automatically be offered a role in future productions.

The current show - Sleeping Beauty - is the first since Berwick Kaler retired after 40 years as Dame, but it is written and co-directed by him.

Mr Bird, writing an update on the situation for a City of York Council meeting, said no one has been "sacked" from the production - but that all actors and creative staff get fresh contracts each year.

He said: "Our pantomime has been the subject of a huge amount of publicity in recent days.

"With a very heavy heart, we have had to take the decision that our pantomime must change in order for it to survive and thrive. This will involve a new creative team, and there will be not be an automatic offer to the current stars of the show, as we wish for the new creative team to have free rein to create a pantomime for the city on their own terms."

"No-one has been ‘sacked’: all actors and creatives [sic] get new contracts year by year."

He says that this year 31,000 tickets were sold - while pantomimes in similar cities smaller than York were attracting nearly 90,000 people.

And adds: "At some point 40 years ago, the Theatre Royal called time on a previous pantomime and said to Berwick Kaler, ‘please do something new’. And Berwick created something extraordinary that lasted 41 years.

"We have reached the moment when a similar reboot is necessary."

The council is set to invest £500,000 in the theatre to improve the "accessibility and sustainability of their premises" in next year's budget.

The meeting takes place at West Offices on Tuesday at 5.30pm.