After a year of darkness, Hackney Empire will be back in business in time for Christmas with the return of its signature annual pantomime. This year's offering, Jack and the Beanstalk, is once again written and directed by Susie McKenna, who has also assumed the role of creative director at the troubled east London landmark, and will star Laurence Olivier-nominated panto dame Clive Rowe. It runs from 2 December 2010 to 9 January 2011 (previews from 27 November).
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Jack and the Beanstalk features the singing harp, the golden hen, the giant of all giants and not forgetting Buttercup... the break dancing cow. Alongside Rowe, the principal cast also features Jaygann Ayeh (Jack) and Chloe Taylor (Off Her Trolly Molly). They're joined in the cast by Kat B, Abigail Rosser, Tony Whittle, Jennie Dale, David Roberts, Gemma Baird and the voice of Sharon D Clarke. Music is by McKenna's frequent collaborator Steven Edis, design is by Lotte Collett.
Hackney Empire reopened in 2004 following a £15 million refurbishment. However, residual debts from that building project were exacerbated by the general economic downturn two years ago, leaving the company in financial straits that required it to cease programming in January after the conclusion of last year's pantomime season.
The sale of its previous offices property, slimming down of its staffing structure and interim grants from the Arts Council and Hackney Council – as well as income from renting itself out for one-off and short engagements – have succeeded in putting the Empire back on firmer financial ground. It now aims to resume full programming – with several more productions currently planned but not yet announced – after Jack and the Beanstalk, though that will be dependent on the funding decisions that arise from Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) cuts, announced tomorrow (20 October 2010).
As one of the Arts Council's long-standing Regularly Funded Organisations (RFOs), Hackney Empire's annual grant for 2010/11 was £393,545.