WINCHESTER Theatre Royal launched its 2013 Christmas pantomime (September 6).

The theatre served ‘poisoned apple drinks’ and colourful canapés to over 30 people inside a dwarf-themed grotto promoting this year’s production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Written by James Barry, who has written over 30 Christmas scripts before, the forthcoming show is Mr Barry’s ninth in-house production.

He said: “It’s one of those subjects that everyone can relate to. You have the heroine, the villain and so many children will have grown up with the Disney film, yet it’s one of the newest pantos. The first pantomime is thought to have been performed in 1782 but this wasn’t done until the 1930s.

“Each year we try and see how we can do more, we are a bit different to other pantos in that we have original songs and movement. We hope it’s even more successful than last year.”

Theatre chief executive, Mark Courtice, said filling seats was a priority and that the financial assurances provided by pantos were paramount. He said: “Financially, it’s important to sell tickets. We can afford to hold other shows during the year because of the panto.”

Mr Courtice added: “It’s a time of year when we get to see everyone, from children to mums and dads, together; that’s my favourite part. The great pleasure is we’re welcoming so many people to this place. This building resounds to the sound of children in it.”

With music from Simon Slater, this is the first time the classic children’s tale has been portrayed by Mr Barry, despite being one of the oldest stories around. Today’s launch was also a first for the actors, some of whom had neither seen the theatre before or even taken part in a panto.

Playing Snow White, Charlotte Melissa Tyler, 25, from Worthing said: “I hadn’t seen the theatre before today. It’s very intimate, seating only 400. It will be a lovely place to be in Winchester.

“When I first auditioned I didn’t think I got the part. I’m so excited to play Snow White, I almost cried when I found out I got it!”

Performances will run from December 11-January 5 and tickets are available from the box office, costing £8-11.50, though discounts are available for families and groups.