Hereford’s main theatre says crowds are back again, as it prepares to put on what will be its biggest show of the year.

Over 22,000 people are expected to see the Courtyard’s festive pantomime, which this season will be Beauty and the Beast.

The show reunites stars of last year’s production Kate Denny, as Bella, Alfie French, as the Beast, and Richard Curnow, as Dame Di Gestive (all pictured, right).

It will once again be directed by Estelle van Warmelo, and will be writer Lyndsay Maples’ 23rd panto at the Courtyard.

Last season’s Jack and the Beanstalk was nominated for a UK Pantomime Association award, and drew in over 15,000 people despite 16 performances falling victim to Covid in the cast, chief executive Ian Archer said.

Costing around £250,000 to put on, panto “is our biggest investment in the year, and a big risk”, he said.

“But our audience figures for this year, particularly from April onwards, have been phenomenal and are well ahead of budget.

“People want a bit of escapism, they are fed up of doom and gloom. They are being choosy, but they want to come.”


Meanwhile its youth theatre programme, with partner theatres in Bromyard, Ledbury and Ross-on-Wye, “is going through the roof”, Mr Archer said

Before the pantomime, the Courtyard will put on a production of Jane Eyre, with a cast from youth groups as well as two professional actors who will act as mentors to the children, he added.

The theatre also plans celebrations to mark its 25th birthday next year.

Beauty and the Beast’s 72-show run between November 25 and January 7 includes audio-described, signed, “relaxed” and dementia-friendly performances, as well as three “adult nights”.

Call 01432 340555 or see for details.