The Great British Pantomime Awards 2020

Published: 8 May 2020
Reporter: Simon Sladen

With COVID-19 having closed theatres for the time being, the fourth annual Great British Pantomime Awards embraced a new online format for its 2020 ceremony. Kicking off on 29 April and spread across five days, a total of 27 awards recognized the companies, individuals and theatres that demonstrate excellence in the wonderful world of pantomime.

Hosted by pantomime royalty Christopher Biggins, the ceremony was streamed nightly and is still available via the Awards’ YouTube channel. Joined by a whole host of previous award winners and well-known pantomime faces, presenters including Darren Day, Hilary O’Neil, Chris Jarvis and Zoe Birkett introduced each category in isolation, with Stoke regular Jonny Wilkes announcing Wendi Peters as the winner of Best Mythical Being for her portrayal of Fairy Bon-Bon at the Theatre Royal Bath from the comfort of his very own bath!

Of the 27 awards, the world’s largest pantomime company Qdos Entertainment took home a third of the prizes, accounting for nine wins. In-house productions at regional venues won five trophies including Best Director for Susie McKenna’s Dick Whittington at Hackney Empire, Best Script for Samuel Holmes’s Cinderella at Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham and Best Supporting Female for Francesca Pim in Beauty and the Beast at Exeter Northcott Theatre. Producers UK Productions and Evolution Productions received four and three awards respectively with the most decorated pantomime title of the season Cinderella amassing seven awards, followed by Peter Pan with four and Goldilocks and the Three Bears and Beauty and the Beast tying with three apiece.

The Hackney Empire, Birmingham Hippodrome and Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield each took home two awards, with the London Palladium winning a total of three for Best Ensemble, Best Costumes and an Innovation Award for Ben Cracknell’s lighting design. This is Cracknell’s third Great British Pantomime Award after winning Best Lighting in 2018 for Cinderella at the Birmingham Hippodrome followed by Goldilocks and the Three Bears at the Theatre Royal Newcastle in 2019.

However, Cracknell isn’t the only one to achieve a Great British Pantomime Award hat-trick. Venues with at least one category win per season in three of the past four awards ceremonies include Hackney Empire, Loughborough Town Hall, London Palladium and Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield which has won Best Panto of the Year (750–1500 seats) twice; first for Mother Goose in 2018 and this year for Cinderella.

But there are venues which can top three wins. Both the Gordon Craig Theatre, Stevenage and Birmingham Hippodrome have won at least one award each year for the past four years.

The final award to be announced was the Lifetime Achievement Award, which this year went to The Krankies. Speaking from Australia, Janette, better known as Wee Jimmy Krankie, revealed the importance of pantomime to her and husband Ian’s successful double-act name.

“I was with a Comic called Jack Mulroy at the Pavilion Theatre in Glasgow and I was one of his children,” she explained. “We were called the Krankie Kids because the pantomime was called The World of Widow Krankie. She had six children and we all did a party piece and my party piece was singing ‘Baby Face’ and doing a wee tap dance and I’ve been entertaining all my life since then. I’m 73 now and we’ve just retired!”

From first meeting in 1963, Janette reflected on their long pantomime career, asking Ian just how many pantomimes they’d done together.

“You did four before I met you” Ian replied, “and then from 1978 to 2019 we did one every year apart from the year when you had an accident, but you’d done about three weeks before the accident!” referring to 2004’s incident in which Janette fell 20 feet from the beanstalk during a production of Jack and the Beanstalk at the Pavilion Theatre, Glasgow.

After thanking the Great British Pantomime Awards for their Lifetime Achievement Award, Ian concluded, “we’ve certainly had a lifetime!”

The full list of winners is: