THE stage is set for the return of legendary panto dame Berwick Kaler - this time at the Grand Opera House York.

Berwick and his familiar set of co-stars will return this Christmas with Dick Turpin Rides Again, an original pantomime based on York’s infamous highwayman.

The show, which will take to the stage from Saturday, December 11 to Sunday, January 9, was launched today (Friday) - just two days after a rival panto cast was unveiled for York Theatre Royal's production of Cinderella.

Dick Turpin has been written by Berwick, the country’s longest serving pantomime dame, who used to perform at York Theatre Royal.

Celestine Dubruel, communications officer at the Grand Opera House, said: “There’s always been two pantos in this city since forever, we are very supportive of each other. There is no rivalry - its healthy competition, nothing more than that!”

York Press: Berwick Kaler, who has written and will appear in the Grand Opera House York Panto for 2021 ‘Dick Turpin Rides Again’ Picture: David Harrison

Berwick said: “It's my favourite panto – it's an original story, and it's totally for the audience who always guides me.

“I just think no one can teach you how to do panto, you learn by being on that stage and you either have it or you don’t.”

David Leonard, who has performed in 30 of Berwick’s shows, will also return as a pantomime villain.

He said: “I have been starved of York! The audience is one big family who have taken us into their hearts.

“The villain is a ‘showing off’ character, and pantos are full of larger than life characters, yet not one dimensional. There is always a moral to a panto, I wish life could be like that!”

York Press: Panto villain David Leonard Picture: David Harrison

Pondering on the future of the pantomime dame in the modern age, Berwick added: “It's not about taking the Micky out of women. My costumes are in the Victoria and Albert museum in London with videos of the pantomimes so audiences in 100 years’ time can see what we found funny today – panto lives on because it changes with the times.”

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