03:00PM, Saturday 02 December 2017
A tradition started by the Queen almost 70 years ago is set to be revived.
This Christmas, theatre lovers will be able to step into the inner sanctum of Windsor Castle for a special performance of A Christmas Carol, in the same space the Queen once performed her own private pantomimes.
Watch Your Head, a theatre company, has created the show which will see audiences allowed into the historic fortress’ Waterloo Chamber and St George’s Hall.
Emma Head, of the Royal Collection Trust (RCT), which has organised the event, said: “Historically there’s always been operas and Shakes-peare and ballets performed in the castle, but this is the first time something has been done at Christmas and opened to the public.
“It’s been a massive challenge to stage because it’s never been done like this before, so there’s no precedent for how to do it.
“Getting approval and the planning process has taken a good year from start to finish and it came from collaboration with Sara [Langridge] and Sasha [McMurray, founders of Watch Your Head] for a Midsummer Night’s Dream in the Moat Garden last summer.”
The castle’s history as an arts venue dates back to its original purpose as a Middle Ages fortress.
Edward III built the original St George’s Hall, which sat on roughly the same footprint as the current one, in the 14th century, and in the 16th century Henry VIII hosted Holy Roman Emperor and Spanish King Charles V in Windsor, where a play was performed.
Queen Victoria, who became known as the Widow of Windsor, was also fond of hosting performances.
And the current Queen’s wartime acting left a legacy which remains to this day.
Dr Richard Williams, the Royal Collection Trust’s learning curator, said: “During the war years a very important series of portraits were removed so they wouldn’t be damaged, but it also left some rather unpleasant empty spaces on the walls.
“So a local art student was invited to paint figures from pantomimes and nursery rhymes – and these paintings are still there.
“When there was the fire back in ’92, the Thomas Lawrence portraits were removed and there, underneath, were the panto characters.
“So when visitors come here they will see the portraits, but lurking underneath is Aladdin and Puss in Boots.”
W A Christmas Carol runs at Windsor Castle from Saturday, December 16, until Thursday, January 4.
Visit www.watch-your-head.co.uk to find out more.
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