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Christopher Biggins to appear at Dartford panto Jack and the Beanstalk at Orchard Theatre as venue set for reopening


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Pantomime legend Christopher Biggins will be back on the stage for the return of a town's panto delayed due to the pandemic.

The former I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here King of the Jungle will be strutting his stuff at Dartford's Orchard Theatre in its production of Jack and The Beanstalk.

Christopher Biggins will be back on the stage at the Orchard Theatre panto in Dartford this Christmas. Picture: Orchard Theatre
Christopher Biggins will be back on the stage at the Orchard Theatre panto in Dartford this Christmas. Picture: Orchard Theatre

The theatre this week announced it will be reopening on August 31 with a packed programme of shows ahead of the ever-popular Christmas panto.

The Rocky Horror Show (August 31-September 1) starring Strictly Come Dancing winner Ore Oduba will open up the schedule followed by The Addams Family (September 7-11) and Grease (September 13-18).

Theatre bosses say they are delighted to finally reopen following 18 months of uncertainty for the industry.

It is hoped the shows will be able to hold a full capacity with restrictions expected to be further eased by the government later this month.

In a statement, the Orchard Theatre said: "We have remained committed to audiences returning as soon as we were able, to experience live theatre and performance at The Orchard Theatre which is renewed, improved and has your safety as our number one priority.

The Orchard Theatre, Dartford is set to reopen with full capacities and a line up of exciting shows from August 31. Picture: Orchard Theatre
The Orchard Theatre, Dartford is set to reopen with full capacities and a line up of exciting shows from August 31. Picture: Orchard Theatre

"There may be a few changes to the way we operate but one thing that remains is that we are here to bring joy to everyone who walks through our doors.

"We will continue to follow government guidelines but you can see what operational changes we have made to ensure your visit is as seamless and safe as it can be on our website."

Changes include touch-free tickets, NHS check-in for test and trace, additional checks which are expected to mean audiences will be asked to leave extra time for seeing a show.

Children's TV presenter Kiera-Nicola Brennan – from Milkshake on Channel 5 – will play the Princess Apricot when the panto returns to the Orchard Theatre. Picture: Orchard Theatre
Children's TV presenter Kiera-Nicola Brennan – from Milkshake on Channel 5 – will play the Princess Apricot when the panto returns to the Orchard Theatre. Picture: Orchard Theatre

Handwashing stations, social distancing measures, face coverings required, extra staff to allow in-seat refreshment deliveries and additional cleaning regimes will all help to make audiences safer on their return to the auditorium.

Biggins will star as Dame Trot in the panto which is set to open on December 11 to January 2.

He will be joined by children's TV presenter Kiera-Nicole Brennan as Princess Apricot who is a presenter on Channel 5's Milkshake show.

Comedian Rikki Jay joins the line up in Jack and the Beanstalk at the Orchard Theatre panto in Dartford this Christmas. Picture: Orchard Theatre
Comedian Rikki Jay joins the line up in Jack and the Beanstalk at the Orchard Theatre panto in Dartford this Christmas. Picture: Orchard Theatre

Comedian Rikki Jay will bring laughs as Silly Simon with the show produced by Crossroads Pantomimes, the world's biggest pantomime production company, which has been working at the Dartford venue for the past 12 years.

It promises to be a "fun-filled Christmas extravaganza" telling the famous story of Jack and his magic beans to a land where his fortunes lie.

Further shows in the theatre's programme include the return of the popular The Play That Goes Wrong (September 21-26), Rock of Ages (October 26-30) and Peppa Pig's Best Day Ever (October 15-17).

Ticket bookings are available via the box office on 01322 220000 or online here.

For support, advice, events and all things to do with parenting in Kent, visit My Kent Family here.

Read more: All the latest news from Dartford

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