Scarborough panto giant Qdos lures legend Berwick Kaler back to the Yorkshire stage to play the dame

Berwick Kaler
Berwick Kaler

Scarborough-based pantomime giant Qdos Entertainment has lured legend Berwick Kaler back to play the dame on a Yorkshire stage.

Kaler, who played the dame for 40 years, many of them at York Theatre Royal, stood down from the role and did not appear on stage last year, though he did direct the show.

He will star in Qdos production Dick Turpin Rides Again at the Grand Opera House York this Christmas.

Dick Turpin Rides Again marks his first pantomime at the Grand Opera House. He will also be joined by his Theatre Royal panto regulars comedy sidekick Martin Barrass, the villainous David Leonard, Yorkshire’s longest-serving Principal Girl Suzy Cooper and favourite funny man AJ Powell.

Berwick will also write and direct the production.

Qdos Entertainment chairman, Scarborough based Nick Thomas said: “I am thrilled to welcome Berwick, a true Yorkshire theatre legend, to the Qdos Family.

"Qdos Entertainment has had a long association with Yorkshire, it is my home county, and with our production and wardrobe teams based in Scarborough and Beverley, forming this new relationship with Berwick and the Grand Opera House is especially exciting."

Qdos producers pantomime across the country including Bradford Alhambra - always headlined by Billy Pearce - Hull New Theatre, the Mayflower, Southampton, and venues from Belfast to Wolverhampton. It also produces the pantomime at the London Palladium.

Among the performers who have appeared in its pantos are Bradley Walsh, Joe Pasquale, Brian Conley, the Chuckle Brothers, Julian Clary, Matt Baker, Paul Zerdin, Nigel Havers and Gary Wilmot.

Berwick Kaler said: “Qdos Entertainment have come to the rescue of the most lauded pantomime in the country having found us a new home at the Grand Opera House in our beloved city of York. To make this a success we need you – the most articulate and loyal audience in the entire country.

"We can go forth with a management that believes we have enhanced the reputation of a local pantomime that has caught the imagination of young and old, from all walks of life.”

Having made his York pantomime debut as Ugly Sister in Cinderella in 1977, Berwick has performed, written and directed panto in the city ever since, calling out his iconic catchphrase ‘me babbies, me bairns’ and met with adoration from local audiences at every performance.

A star of the stage since he left his native Sunderland as a teenager, Berwick has been a mainstay in theatre ever since, appearing in London’s West End and regionally, making television appearances in iconic comedies such as The New Statesman and Auf Wiedersehen, Pet and featuring in the Hollywood blockbuster A Knight’s Tale. In 2012 he was featured in Michael Grade’s acclaimed documentary A History of the Pantomime Dame, which was aired on BBC Four.

Dick Turpin Rides Again will feature Qdos Entertainment’s hallmark of high-quality production values and special effects, while staying faithful to Berwick’s renowned approach to the genre and to local York audiences.

Speaking on the partnership, Qdos Entertainment’s managing director Michael Harrison said: “We are absolutely delighted to be embarking on an all-new pantomime partnership with our colleagues at the Ambassador Theatre Group, Grand Opera House and, of course, Berwick and the gang. Berwick is an undeniable master in the world of pantomime, with his own inimitable style and approach and we are delighted to be working closely with him and the cast to bring back the magic for which they are best-known.”

Grand Opera House York’s Theatre director Rachel Crocombe-Lane said: ‘Qdos brings both world-class expertise and also a Yorkshire heart, being based in Scarborough; the perfect combination together with this talented cast.

"As a venue team, pantomime is our favourite time of year because of the friendship with the company and also the joy and devotion of our audience. We are proud of these new partnerships, excited for the future of our pantomime and will be ready altogether to really blow your Christmas socks off!’

Dick Turpin Rides Again will play at Grand Opera House from Saturday December 12 until Sunday January 10, with tickets going on sale for ATG Theatre Card holders from Tuesday February 11 and on sale generally from Friday February 14.

Berwick Kaler will be making a personal appearance at the theatre box office as it goes on sale at 10am on February 14, and will sell the first tickets to the show.