Berwick Kaler taken ill ahead of opening night



Michael Lambourne as The Old Gentleman credit Anthony Robling

There’s been a replacement to the advertised service at York Theatre Royal’s production of The Railway Children this week as panto legend Berwick Kaler has been taken ill ahead of opening night. Berwick is playing the part of The Old Gentleman in York Theatre Royal’s The Railway Children which opens at The Signal Box Theatre, National Railway Museum tonight. The part will temporarily be played by local actor Michael Lambourne who has stepped in at the last minute.


On Wednesday Berwick was taken ill with a suspected back injury and is currently awaiting further advice from doctors. Whilst he was very keen to make the opening night’s performance, director Damian Cruden has suggested he stays at home to recover and to ensure Berwick’s condition is not further aggravated in what is a strenuous production.

Most people will know Berwick from his starring role in the annual York Theatre Royal pantomime, which he has performed as Dame in for the last 36 years. The theatre announced the panto would be moving to The Signal Box Theatre back in May when a post-medieval hospital was found in the auditorium during major development work. This prompted Berwick to take the role of The Old Gentleman to allow him to get used to the venue as he began writing the panto for the brand-new space.

Artistic Director Damian Cruden said

Berwick desperately wants to be back as soon as he can be. He was really looking forward to opening night and is very upset not to be with the rest of the company on this special night. I’ve passed on his good luck messages and well wishes to the cast and crew.


York based actor Michael Lambourne has bravely stepped into Berwick’s shoes while he recovers. Michael recently won critical acclaim for his role as Weasel in York Theatre Royal’s 2014 summer show The Wind in the Willows. This role will be his seventh for York Theatre Royal including roles inThe Legend of King Arthur and Two Planks and a Passion. He has also starred in Hull Truck Theatre’s last two Christmas shows and runs York Theatre Royal’s Adult Acting Course.


We all wish Berwick a speedy recovery and hope he’ll be back playing The Old Gentleman in The Railway Children very soon.