The Great British Pantomime Awards 2019

Published: 1 May 2019
Reporter: Simon Sladen

Roy Hudd and Berwick Kaler at the Great British Pantomime Awards Credit: Origin8Photography

Sunday 28 April saw Pantoland descend on the New Wimbledon Theatre for the third annual Great British Pantomime Awards.

Founded in 2017, 28 categories now celebrate the best in the Industry with a team of judges traversing the British Isles between November and February to determine the winners.

In addition to award presentations, the evening featured a number of performances from panto newbies and regulars including comedy ventriloquist Max Fulham, Dame Quinn Patrick and students from Mountview Academy. Many acts playfully referenced the highs and lows of performing in pantomime, including this season’s ear worm "Baby Shark", which appeared in almost every show.

2019 saw the introduction of a new category—Best Animal—demonstrating how the awards have responded to recent evolutions of the genre. Once the reserve for specialised skin performers, today animals are most likely to be traipsing the boards as the show’s Comic or playing a more active and integrated role in the narrative. This year’s winner Charlie Raine starred as a signing sheep named Cutlet in the Customs House, South Shield’s production of Beauty and the Beast, a production commended for its commitment to accessibility.

Accessibility and representation were key themes of the evening with Elaine C Smith remarking that twenty years ago, she’d never have believed that a female comic would one day headline a pantomime in Scotland in amongst greats such as Stanley Baxter, Jimmy Logan and Rikki Fulton. Having won Best Fairy last year, this year she took home the Pantomime of the Year (1,500+) award as Glasgow King’s Widow Twankey, proving female Dames are very much alive.

Pantomime practices are diversifying greatly, with new forms of cross-dressing celebrated at this year’s awards and evident in last year’s nominations for Vikki Stone’s Abanazar and Grant Stott’s Baroness Hibernia. Harrogate Theatre’s Harriet Hare in the role of Jack (Jacqueline) took home Best Principal Girl, with award presenter and pantomime designer Morgan Brind commending Harrogate on their commitment to equality and ensuring pantomime remains forward facing.

Brind’s production company Little Wolf Entertainment were also rewarded for their casting of Ella-Jane Thomas as the Villain’s comedic sidekick in their production of Beauty and the Beast at the Loughborough Town Hall. As Elaine C Smith remarked, there has never been a better time for women in comedy and it’s important that young comediennes, writers and performers are provided with inspirational role models.

Regular Comics Andy Ford and Ben Nickless were recognised for Best Song Sheet and Best Comic with Hackney Empire’s Clive Rowe winning Best Dame. But some other well-known Pantoland faces won categories with which they might not usually be associated. St. Albans resident Dame Bob Golding won Best Supporting Male for his role as Dandini in Cinderella, with regular Comic Chris Jarvis winning Best Principal Boy for Dick Whittington at the Poole Lighthouse. Awards can both cement and skew the historical record, with Golding and Jarvis both nodding to their pantomime past.

2019’s Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to York Theatre Royal’s resident writer, co-director and Dame Berwick Kaler, who retired from performing after 40 years at the theatre. Revealing the winner, last year’s recipient Roy Hudd described Kaler as an “old fashioned, true blue pro, a specialist, a legend”, who creates “just the sort of pantos I love, especially tailored for his theatre and audiences.”

Kaler paid homage to Hudd, citing him as his biggest influence, before the two reminisced about their time working together and how Kaler was responsible for introducing Gary Oldman, Mark Addy and Pierce Brosnan to the wonderful world of pantomime in the early days of their careers.

But perhaps the last line should be afforded to experienced actor and panto newcomer Robert Lindsay, who took home to the award for Best Villain. Reflecting on his first season in pantomime, he commended the Industry's strength of family, before concluding “Panto is not for pussies!”

The full list of winners is:

  • Best Ensemble Peter Pan, De Montfort Hall, Leicester
  • Best Pantomime Animal Charlie Raine, Beauty and the Beast, Customs House, South Shields
  • Best Song Sheet Andy Ford, Dick Whittington, Theatre Royal Plymouth
  • Best Lighting/ Video Ben Cracknell, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Newcastle Theatre Royal
  • Best Sound Design James Cook, Jack and the Beanstalk, Derby Arena
  • Best Costume Design Lily Arnold, Sleeping Beauty, Theatre Royal Stratford East
  • Best Director Kathryn Rooney, Cinderella, Bristol Hippodrome
  • Musical Achievement Rick Coates, Peter Pan, Birmingham Hippodrome
  • Best Choreography Katie Beard, Cinderella, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre Guildford
  • Best Speciality / Double act Ashley Banjo and Diversity, Aladdin, Cliffs Pavilion, Southend-on-Sea
  • Best Staging and Set Victoria Spearing, Dick Whittington, South Hill Park Arts Centre
  • Best Script Jon Monie, Beauty and the Beast, Blackpool Grand Theatre
  • Best Special Effect Josh Grigg for the magic carpet in Aladdin, Everyman Theatre Cheltenham
  • Best Newcomer Ella-Jane Thomas, Beauty and the Beast, Loughborough Town Hall
  • Best Ugly Sisters Les Dennis and Connor McIntyre, Cinderella, Opera House Manchester
  • Best Mythical Being (fairy) Jess Robinson, Aladdin, the Hawth Crawley
  • Best Supporting Male Bob Golding, Cinderella, St Albans Arena
  • Best Supporting Female Sam Bailey, Peter Pan, De Montfort Hall, Leicester
  • Best Dame Clive Rowe, Aladdin, Hackney Empire
  • Best Female Villain Hannah-Jane Fox, Snow White, Gordon Craig Theatre Stevenage
  • Best Male Villain Robert Lindsay, Peter Pan, Richmond Theatre
  • Best Principal Boy Chris Jarvis, Dick Whittington, Poole Lighthouse
  • Best Principal Girl Harriet Hare, Jack and the Beanstalk, Harrogate Theatre
  • Best Comic Ben Nickless, Cinderella, Manchester Opera House
  • Pantomime of the Year – venues over 1500 seats Aladdin, Glasgow King’s Theatre
  • Pantomime of the Year – venues between 750- 1500 seats Beauty and the Beast, Edinburgh King’s Theatre
  • Pantomime of the Year – venues under 750 seats Snow White, Gordon Craig Theatre, Stevenage
  • Lifetime Achievement Berwick Kaler