Animal Magic at York Theatre Royal

by Handy Mag

Zeus the Border Collie and Dave the Cow in York Theatre Royal pantomime

A Young Kennel Club Crufts trophy winner has won a lead role in this year’s pantomime at York Theatre Royal.

Zeus the Collie will make his stage debut alongside EastEnders star Nina Wadi, ‘Dame’ Robin Simpson and Raven star James Mackenzie in Jack and the Beanstalk, opening on December 8.

A theatre spokesperson said: “Zeus’s amazing audition gave us all paws for thought. He’s a natural stage performer whose dogged determination to win the role was a real tail-wagging moment.”

Zeus, a six-year Border Collie from York, is already a winner on the canine stage with three Young Kennel Club Crufts trophies to his credit.

Those closest to Zeus say he’s very agile and loves to play but has an ‘off switch’ and likes to wind down too. Pantomime director Juliet Forster was delighted to hear that Zeus is “very eager to please, playful and up for learning” as she’ll be training him in his acting debut.

Zeus loves cream cheese, squeezy cheese and sometimes has carrots for breakfast. He eats at the table and even has his own chair. His favourite toys are balls and he has a collection of soft toys.

Activities Zeus likes include rounding up horses but not, as you might expect from a Collie, rounding up sheep. He is, however, best friends with two sheep, Maisie Midnight Fluffington and Wallace.

He hasn’t yet met cows but will have his first close encounter with the bovine world in the rehearsal room as one of his co-stars will also be spreading animal magic around the theatre – namely Dave the Cow.

Dave is a rare breed of pantomime cow. “You’d almost think Dave is human,” says actor, musician, writer Anna Soden, who inhabits the role on her own rather than the usual two people squeezed uncomfortably into a cow costume.

Writer Paul Hendy, from York Theatre Royal’s producing partner Evolution, said: “In 19 years of writing and producing pantomimes we’ve never had a human cow before. We wanted to do something different and director Juliet Forster was very open to that. It makes more opportunities in the show for the cow. It’s a much bigger part than usual. Dave is very much one of the gang.

“Our company is called Evolution for a reason – we are constantly evolving. One of the reasons pantomime has survived for 150 years or more is that it changes. There has to be a formula but within that you have to be original.”

Evolution is producing three Jack and the Beanstalk pantomimes around the country this year. York has Dave while the other two productions have a more traditional cow.

The Theatre Royal’s legendary pantomime cow Patrica is heading for pastures new this Christmas with a role in the Bridlington Spa Theatre pantomime Patricia’s career has seen her appear on television in The Crystal Maze with pantomime legend Christopher Biggins and in Bargain Hunt. She also starred in her own series of moo-vies on You Tube.

Jack and the Beanstalk is at York Theatre Royal from December 8 to January 7.

Box office 01904 623568 | yorktheatreroyal.co.uk

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