Hoping to bring Esther to panto

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Plans are afoot to bring Esther Rantzen to Bognor Regis for next year’s pantomime at the Alexandra Theatre.

Esther, whose one and only pantomime to date was at the venue some years ago, was a guest at the Regis Centre last week.

She was invited to Bognor by Hazel Latus, who is part of the new team at the Regis Centre and is keen to maximize publicity there.

Esther’s late husband gave Hazel’s husband John his first job as producer/director at the BBC, and Hazel was keen to renew the friendship - and also to show Esther the progress being made at the Regis Centre.

“I am also trying to tempt her back to do Cinderella next year,” Hazel said. “She was not against it. She was very favourable in fact, but she said she saw herself as being more of a Wicked Queen than a Fairy Godmother.”

The arrangement is that they will talk nearer the time.

In the meantime, Hazel is keen to raise the Regis Centre’s profile: “I am desperate that it should be thought of as a professional venue as well as a community venue. We have got a bit of a gap now until panto. We have got a few things going on, but nothing major. I want to keep things jogging along.

“Esther said that she saw the venue had enormous potential. I said that it was very hard, but that where we scored was that we were kept going by our volunteers.

“Theatres are going downwards all over the country, but we are not in a worse place than we were. I like to think that the situation is improving actually because we have never had the grants that have been cut for other people. We haven’t had big grants cut from under us because we have never had them anyway!”