Corby’s first full-scale panto at The Core ‘worth the risk’

Cinderella at The Core at Corby Cube
Image caption,Cinderella is The Core at Corby Cube’s highest grossing show so far

Thirteen years after a theatre opened, its first full-scale pantomime has been “worth the risk”, it said.

The Core at Corby Cube in Northamptonshire opened in 2010 in a new flagship building, which was part of a town regeneration programme.

Its current production of Cinderella is its highest grossing show to date.

Director Joe Flavin said like any venue it had taken time to work out its identity, but was “now serving our public better”.

In the 445-seat venue’s early years, rather than entering a very crowded pantomime market it tried different “family Christmas shows”, he said. But they were putting up full production costs for shows that just about broke even.

“While it’s nice to provide an alternative, in reality people were getting kind of choosy with their money and we were seeing ever decreasing returns,” said Mr Flavin.

“The reality is that at Christmas, people do just want the panto and were weren’t offering the families of Corby that kind of thing.”

Coming out of the pandemic, he said not offering pantomime was a risk it could no longer take and they “needed to look at our long term sustainability”.

“We were looking at all the evidence and thought maybe there now actually is enough demand locally for people to come to a full professional family pantomime that runs for much of December,” he said.

The Corby Cube
Image caption,The Corby Cube, which opened in 2010, also houses council offices

So in came Little Wolf Entertainment and “the biggest panto of them all”, Cinderella.

“Putting on something of this scale is bigger than we’ve ever done before… we have a really, really big show that looks fantastic on our stage,” Mr Flavin said.

“Audiences are gasping and clapping when a life-size carriage flies over the audience. At the moment Cinderella is the highest grossing show that The Core has ever done.”

Pantomime director, Sam Munday-Webb, said it was “really exciting”.

“For me, panto needs to speak to its audience, and having the chance to develop that in the first year is really important and really precious,” he said.

He has cast a couple of Scottish actors to reflect the town’s large population from north of the border.

“That resonates with the audience,” he said.

“We also give a shout-out to local towns – the fairy does a bit of a Northampton accent at one point, and we mention Irn Bru because Corby loves Irn Bru.”

The Core at Corby Cube auditorium
Image caption,Theatre director, Joe Flavin, said the 445-seat venue was “now serving our public better”

Mr Flavin admitted there was still financial risk on both sides and the show had not yet broken even, but he was confident it would.

He said if it had tried something of this scale in 2010 it would not have had the sales required to sustain it.

For many people, pantomime is their first entry into theatre and the venue had not been providing that route, said Mr Flavin. However, he hoped it would inspire people to come back and see other shows.

“The Arts Council recognised for a long time that Corby was in a black spot of arts engagement, so the venue had to start off with that as a barrier,” Mr Flavin said.

“But everybody saw the arts had a role to play in enriching and empowering this community.

“We’re in a town that has high levels of disadvantage and you can’t turn your back on that. You can’t operate a fully commercial beast and charge ¬£40 a ticket because you alienate all those people, but at the same time those people should have access to good quality art on their doorstep.

“What’s important to The Core is how it’s represented in the community. Outside the theatre we do lots of community work, so I think we’re getting the balance right now.”

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