This year’s long-awaited Middle Child Christmas show has been revealed – and for the first time ever it will be animated and free to watch from the comfort of your own home.
Pattie Breadcake: Into the Pantoverse sees Hull’s favourite dame, Pattie Breadcake, magicked into an animated version of the city, where she must help four princesses retell their stories for a contemporary audience.
A radio version will also be broadcast on BBC Radio Humberside across four mini-episodes over Christmas, making it accessible to those without internet access.
The award-winning Hull company have performed a panto in the city every year since 2011, originally at Fruit before moving to Jubilee Central in 2018.
With coronavirus restrictions closing theatres this Christmas though, Middle Child have embraced the growing appetite for digital content and turned to local animators, My Pockets, to bring a show inspired by panto to life online.
Artistic director, Paul Smith, said: “Christmas at Middle Child is all about panto, which for us is what all theatre should be: totally devoted to its audience, woven into the fabric of local communities and able to transport us into a world of magic and wonder.
“The very nature of panto – live, loud and in the audience’s faces – makes it difficult for us to realise this year though, under the current coronavirus restrictions.
“That’s why we’ve dived into the digital world to work with a brilliant animation company, My Pockets, to capture the spirit of our panto and share it for free with a family audience.
“We’re also delighted to partner with BBC Radio Humberside, to broadcast the show as four mini-radio plays, ensuring that people without internet access can also enjoy some theatre this Christmas.”
Peter Snelling, of My Pockets, said: “We are thrilled to be part of Middle Child’s 2020 Christmas show. When we first moved to Hull we used to sneak into the Middle Child rehearsal space in Darley’s Youth Club when working with young people there.
“We liked all the posters on the wall, the quotes and the books on the shelves, and thought, who are these guys? Since then we have become big fans and love the way they put theatre in places that it doesn’t normally go, to be seen by people who don’t normally watch.
“Creativity for everyone is something we really believe in. That and lots of tea breaks.”
The show is a collaboration between five writers, including debut commissions for two who have come through Middle Child’s artist development programme.
Hull writer Hannah Scorer took part in Middle Child’s Writers’ Group in 2019, as well as sharing work at their Out Loud scratch night in January, and has retold Maid Marian’s story.
Hannah said: “I’m a long-time Middle Child panto fan and took my daughter for the first time last year, where we started what will become a new Christmas tradition for us.
“Before doing the writers’ group with Tom Wells I couldn’t have imagined I’d ever get a commission, so it’s been such a privilege to make something joyful in this weird year.
“I expect to be completely overwhelmed when I watch it with my kid.”
Deborah Acheampong is one of the company’s new associate writers, announced last month, and has taken on the tale of Cinderella.
Deborah said: “It’s honestly been amazing working with Middle Child for their Christmas panto, it’s felt like such a whirlwind.
“I didn’t think that, after sending them a script of mine in the summer, I could end up working on something so fun and whimsical for such a wide audience.”
Middle Child company member, Ellen Brammar, who has previously written I Hate Alone and is currently on the BBC Writersroom Northern Voices programme, has written Sleeping Beauty’s story.
Ellen said: “Panto brings me joy. Full on, pie in the face, wee my pants, joy. So being asked to write for Middle Child’s panto was a Christmas wish come true.
“I can’t wait to snuggle in with my family and enjoy the mayhem.”
Maureen Lennon, who wrote Middle Child’s 2019 karaoke cabaret Us Against Whatever, has reimagined the Evil Queen from Snow White.
Maureen said: “I hope people get as much joy from watching it as I have from writing a piece.
“Never have I felt like I needed children booing, and stupid jokes and messages of joy and hope more than this year. It’s been the absolute dream.”
Paul Smith, who has written the company’s past two pantomimes, has penned Pattie Breadcake’s introduction and closing missive, performed by company member Marc Graham.
Paul added: “This Christmas show is extra special to us for being able to commission so many writers and continue to develop their practice, in a year that has already seen Daniel Ward, win the George Devine Award for our Edinburgh hit The Canary and the Crow.”
Watch Pattie Breadcake: Into the Pantoverse for free on YouTube, via the Middle Child website, from Saturday 19 December until midnight on Thursday 31 December.
BBC Radio Humberside will broadcast a radio version across four episodes, from 20-24 December.
Visit www.middlechildtheatre.co.uk/pantoverse/ for more details.
Pattie Breadcake: Into the Pantoverse is made possible by support from the Cultural Recovery Fund.
Pattie Breadcake: Into the Pantoverse
Produced by Middle Child in collaboration with My PocketsWritten by Deborah Acheampong, Ellen Brammar, Maureen Lennon, Hannah Scorer and Paul SmithDirected by Paul SmithComposed by James FrewerSound design by Ed Clarke
Watch on YouTube; link via the Middle Child website19-31 December 2020Age guidance: parental discretion.
Includes panto-style innuendo, covid-19 references and themes of loneliness, missing family and friends and body image.
[Jamie Potter – Middle Child]