Today’s item of the week is a historic theater poster that marked the start of a legendary pantomime career.

HE IS probably the most recognizable name in pantomime.

But few will know that Christopher Biggins began his career as a pantomime at Darlington.

And now a poster has emerged of that first show – Mother Goose, played at what was then called the Civic Theatre, in 1976/77.

The poster comes from the archives of the theater – now called the Hippodrome, after a major renovation.

Read more: Oh yes it is! Pantomime legend Biggins returns to Darlington for Christmas

Biggins, best known at the time for his role on the television prison sitcom Porridge alongside Ronnie Barker, is headlined as Mother Goose.

Frank Williams, the vicar of Dad’s Army, played the Wicked Squire and other cast members included Kay Lyell, Stephanie Lawrence and Julie Collins.

The Northern Echo: The Darlington Civic Theatre's 1976 pantomime Morther Goose poster, starring Christopher BigginsThe Darlington Civic Theatre’s 1976 pantomime Morther Goose poster, starring Christopher Biggins (Image: DARLINGTON RACECOURSE)

Now, 47 years after that first appearance, Biggins will return to Darlington to star in this year’s pantomime – Peter Pan.

He fondly recalled how he was persuaded to don the lady’s panto dress for the first time when he returned to Darlington this week to kick off this year’s show.

“In my day it was the Civic Theatre, run by Peter Todd,” he said.

“Duggie Squires, who was a wonderful director, and Jamie Phillips, a wonderful producer, asked me to do pantomime at Darlington.

“I refused. I said ‘no, no, no, I’m an actor – I don’t do pantomime and routine things like that’.

“But they kept asking me to come and do it and I said ‘no, no. think.

“Eventually they mentioned the money, which about 40 years ago was £1,000 a week – and I thought, ‘Maybe I should do this, it’s amazing money’ .

“So I did it and, of course, fell in love with it immediately. It was fantastic.”

In fact, he liked it so much that he returned the following year to play Sarah the Cook in Dick Whittington – footage of which was also found in the theater’s archives.

The Northern Echo: A young Christopher Biggins in pantomime in Darlington in the 1970sA young Christopher Biggins in pantomime in Darlington in the 1970s (Image: DARLINGTON RACECOURSE)

The Northern Echo: Christopher Biggins in one of his first pantomime rolesChristopher Biggins in one of his early pantomime roles (Image: DARLINGTON RACECOURSE)

Biggins returned to the Civic Theater to appear on its last night before renovations to “say goodbye” to what he described as “a wonderful theatre”.

And he is very impressed with the transformation.

“It’s amazing,” he said.

“What they’ve done to this theater is beautiful – it’s absolutely beautiful.

“You look in the auditorium and they put it back to how it was when it first opened.

“I don’t know how much they spent on it, but it was worth every penny and a tribute to the North East.”

* Peter Pan takes place at Darlington Racecourse from Friday 9th December to Saturday 31st December 2023. For details or to book call 01325-405405 or visit darlingtonhippodrome.co.uk

The Northern Echo: Christopher Biggins in one of his first pantomime rolesChristopher Biggins in one of his early pantomime roles (Image: DARLINGTON RACECOURSE)

The Northern Echo: Christopher Biggins in one of his first pantomime rolesChristopher Biggins in one of his early pantomime roles (Image: DARLINGTON RACECOURSE)

The Northern Echo: Christopher Biggins in one of his first pantomime rolesChristopher Biggins in one of his early pantomime roles (Image: DARLINGTON RACECOURSE)

The Northern Echo: Christopher Biggins in one of his first pantomime rolesChristopher Biggins in one of his early pantomime roles (Image: DARLINGTON RACECOURSE)

The Northern Echo: Christopher Biggins in one of his first pantomime rolesChristopher Biggins in one of his early pantomime roles (Image: DARLINGTON RACECOURSE)

The Northern Echo: Christopher Biggins in one of his first pantomime rolesChristopher Biggins in one of his early pantomime roles (Image: DARLINGTON RACECOURSE)

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