Behind the scenes at Harrogate pantomime

Harrogate panto director Phil Lowe.
Harrogate panto director Phil Lowe.

THE stage is almost set for Harrogate Theatre’s truly traditional pantomime, Beauty & The Beast, which opens next Friday, November 25. With the cast busy in rehearsal and the production team working tirelessly to build the set for what will be the theatre’s biggest and most exciting pantomime to date, Graham Chalmers managed to catch up with director and co-writer Phil Lowe.

Q: Is Beauty and the Beast one of your favourites pantos?

A: It’s not one of the traditional seven pantomimes performed but as far as our version of Beauty & The Beast is concerned I’m really looking forward to audiences seeing our interpretation. It’s a beautiful story with the prize being love as opposed to treasure, which makes for a great fairytale.Although I’d have to say that Jack & The Beanstalk is my all time favourite pantomime.

Q: Were you pleased by Sir Ian McKellen’s comments about Harrogate panto last year?

A: Who wouldn’t be? I, along with the cast, was extremely humbled to have such a legendary actor come to our pantomime and say that it was one of the best he’d seen in a long time. I just hope he returns to see this year’s.

Q: Pantomimes fall in boundaries; they work almost to a formula. How do you keep the format fresh year after year?

A: Harrogate has a very beautiful tradition for pantomimes and David (Bown, co-writer) and I are very keen to keep that tradition alive.

This is the third pantomime that David and I have collaborated on and each year we try and bring new ideas to the table. I think it’s important to retain the hallmarks of what makes our pantomime so special and in terms of keeping it fresh it’s all about the music, design and adding those little touches of magic, quite literally this year.

In terms of the cast we’ve brought back some Harrogate Theatre favourites, as well as introducing some new faces, which helps to mix things up.

Q: Both Tim Stedman and Howard Chadwick have enormous experience of pantomimes at Harrogate Theatre. Do they make suggestions and chip in with ideas in both the script stage and performance or do you rule with a rod of iron?

A: David and I write the script well in advance of the rehearsal process and the version we start with on day one certainly differs from the version that audiences will see.

But the script is by no means final and I do encourage the cast to try different approaches and contribute different ideas, some of which do make it into the final version.

Q: What do you think will be the highlights of this year’s panto?

A: That’s a difficult one to answer – to be honest I consider the whole show to be a highlight. It’s full of big dance routines, a beautifully designed and crafted set, crazy magic and stunning costumes. I think the combination of our high production and artistic values makes it the best pantomime we’ve ever done.

 Q: What’s it like collaborating with the Harrogate Theatre’s chief executive, and pantomime co-writer, David Bown?

A: It’s a joy and an honour to be able to work alongside an award-winning writer and be a part of the Harrogate Theatre tradition of quality pantomimes. The only downside is that David supports Sheffield United - oh no he doesn’t, oh yes he does (sorry, I can’t stop doing that)!

l Beauty & The Beast runs at Harrogate Theatre from Friday, November 25 until Sunday, January 15.

l Tickets are selling faster than ever and cost £11-£18 with concessions available and can be booked securely online at or through the Harrogate Theatre Box Office on 01423 502 116.