North-east youngsters missing out on the fun of a trip to a panto this Christmas will instead have all fun of the theatre brought into their classrooms over the internet.
Aberdeen Arts Centre has joined forces with successful pantomime company TaleGale Theatre Productions to broadcast an Aladdin production with a “sprinkling of Aberdonian charm”.
The free show will be available to schools across Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire and hopes to spread some festive joy during the pandemic.
With current restrictions cancelling the annual tradition of schoolchildren coming to Aberdeen Arts Centre to hiss baddies and cheer their heroes, both companies wanted to make sure children in the north-east weren’t missing out.
They came up with the idea of live-streaming last year’s box office hit Aladdin for free to schools during December.
Stephanie Walls, Aberdeen Arts Centre’s manager, revealed that bosses are still working on the possibility of staging a live show before a socially distanced crowd.
She said: “As we await further announcements from the Scottish Government, we wanted to explore alternative ways of bringing the magic of theatre and some much-needed Christmas fun to the children of Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.
“Starring a talented professional cast of local actors, our fairytale performance of Aladdin is bursting with fun and silliness.
“Children can follow our hero, Aladdin, and his troublesome mum, Widow McTwankey, on a journey full of Eastern promise with a sprinkling of Aberdonian charm.”
She added: “Alongside this streaming version of last year’s box office smash, we’re working behind the scenes with TaleGate Theatre to produce a live pantomime for socially-distanced audiences, if restrictions will allow.
“Our team has been working hard for the last few months to adapt our theatre to allow for socially distanced performances to take place.
“Deep cleaning and one-way systems are already in place, so we’re ready to hit the ground running as soon as we enter the required tier level to open our auditorium.”
Hundreds of children will now experience the magical pantomime from the safety and comfort of their classrooms as more than 80 schools have signed up.
An outrageous Aberdonian dame will feature in the old-fashioned family favourite as well as songs, slapstick, silliness and audience participation.
Philip Ward and James Worthington of TaleGate Theatre Productions added: “Part of our mission statement is to provide the magic of theatre to families across the UK regardless of any social barriers
“Being able to offer a filmed version of our pantomime Aladdin for free to schools across Aberdeen is wonderful.
“This year has been tough on us all, and it is vital that children can laugh out loud at their annual festive treat.
“It highlights the important role that entertainment, and in particular Aberdeen Arts Centre, plays within the community.
“Working with Aberdeen Arts Centre on last year’s panto was magical and we would like to thank all of the team, including the talented cast in making this possible.”
The move comes after Aberdeen entertainment chiefs had to cancel the city’s biggest pantomime in August.
The staple His Majesty’s Theatre event was in doubt for months when Aberdeen Performing Arts finally had to pull the plug.
The production of Beauty and The Beast was rescheduled to next year and will instead run between December 4, 2021 and January 9, 2022.
Earlier this week, the organisers of another north-east pantomime said they would debut a brand new show over the internet.
Fraserburgh Junior Arts Society (FJAS) has filmed the show at several local businesses in the town.
The society’s vice president Stephen Summers – who co-wrote the script – said he was “excited for people to see the final version”, which will be free to watch.