A popular Thames Water pantomime which has raised almost a quarter of a million pounds for charity is preparing to celebrate its 25th year.
A cast of about 30 employees from the company’s offices in Swindon and Reading will take to the stage in the New Year for a performance of “The Case of Goldilocks and the Three Bears”, based on the classic fairy tale.
This year’s performances will be held at the Deanery CE Academy in Peglars Way, Swindon, on Friday, January 31 and Saturday, 1 February.
The annual pantomime was first held in 1996 with a performance of “Cinderella” and since then has raised its own pot of gold, with £236,000 being made for charities and good causes in the area.
This year’s show sees police searching for a porridge recipe stolen from the three bears, with the notorious Goldilocks the prime suspect.
The man “behind it” is pantomime veteran and Thames Water’s market process manager Paul Aust, who is this year writing and directing the show. He’s hoping his retelling of the iconic story will be “just right”.
Mr Aust said: “I have been involved since 1997 when I wrote and performed a Star Trek sketch for a variety show we put on. The next year I was asked to write a pantomime and I’ve been writing and directing the show ever since.
“The whole process takes up most of my year with ideas in April, writing in June and July, casting in August, a rewrite to fit the cast and then rehearsals beginning in September up to the show in January and February.”
Mr Aust’s wife Lisa, who will be co-directing and playing the role of Mummy Bear, is also a pantomime regular and even got her happily ever after when she got engaged to her husband following 1999’s performance of Aladdin.
She added: “A big thank you to all those who’ve supported us over the last 25 years. Long may the panto continue to entertain and raise vital funding.”
This year’s pantomime will raise money for homelessness charities the Swindon Night Shelter and Big Breakfast Plus, dementia group Mindsong, the Nelson Trust, which helps those battling substance misuse and offending, Out of the Can youth group and Phoenix Enterprises, which supports those with mental health issues.
The cast and crew hope to raise £2,000 for each charity, with Thames Water donating up to £1,000 for each good cause through its charity funding scheme.
Becky Davison, chairwoman of Swindon Night Shelter, said: “We’re so grateful to Thames Water staff for choosing us as one of their charitable partners and would urge as many people as possible to buy tickets - not only to support Thames Water staff but also to support those in our community who are homeless or vulnerably housed."
Rosemary Curtis, chairwoman of Big Breakfast Plus, added: “We were really thrilled to have been chosen as one of Thames Water’s charities this year. As a long-standing follower of its annual pantomime it’s especially good to know that this year’s performance will be supporting us too.”
This year’s performances will be held at the Deanery CE Academy in Peglars Way, Swindon, on Friday, January 31 and Saturday, February 1. Tickets cost £12 and can be bought online at www.ticketsource.co.uk/twpanto