We all heard the devastating news last week that many areas in England, including Buckinghamshire, have moved into Tier 4. With this news, many theatres must close again at a time that would usually be their busiest period.
Many theatres with their shows in full swing have had to abruptly close, and those eagerly awaiting the imminent arrival of their audiences have had to sadly put their plans aside once more. The Christmas cheer that we all hoped to get from our visit to the theatre this season has again been dashed.
For me, being at the theatre in December is the epitome of Christmas – especially when it is to see a classic pantomime!
Dating back to the 17th Century, pantos have become an annual British tradition that brings over 3 million people together to enjoy comedy, singing, a bit of cross dressing and of course that all important audience participation! No matter how old you are, pantos certainly brings out the child in you when you’re shouting ‘booo’ at the villain or joining in with fun songs.
For many children, and adults alike, pantos are often their first experience of the world of theatre. Theatres and production companies place a huge amount of importance into the creation of these shows for that very reason.
A great deal of time and skill is put into these shows by hugely talented staff and freelancers in a very short space of time. Artists and teams take around 2 – 3 weeks of rehearsals with lighting, costume and set design, and then the run itself, which could be anything between 3 and 6 weeks with potentially three shows a day.
They work hard to ensure they get every element right. From the singing and dancing to the slap stick routines and edgy jokes, it all needs to be sharp and on point to make it a great watch for the audience.
Pantos are all about building in excitement, anticipation and good fun elements that entertain and capture the imagination of their audiences, big and small. By captivating their audience at a young age it helps to instil a love of theatre that will hopefully encourage them to return, not only at Christmas, but also all year round.
Theatre is a place of magic and escapism, but at Christmas just that added seasonal joy and spirit mixed with family and friends is a true festive treat. It is something I am going to miss this year.
However, theatres will be missing their panto audiences this winter, as it is the lifeblood for many. They are the main source of income for most theatres, with some stating they can provide almost 50% of their yearly income in just over a month.
According to the UK Theatre Group, in 2018-19 2.9million panto tickets were sold in the UK, which equates to £63m at the box office. The highest it has ever been. They believe it is due to the influx of millennials heading to see young TV personalities grace the panto stage in main roles.
The closure of theatres over Christmas could see our UK theatre industry lose a staggering £90m in revenue. Without this money theatres won’t be able to fund their own productions, outreach programmes or investments.
More than 180 pantomimes have been cancelled this year, recently including ‘Sleeping Beauty’ at MK Theatre, which was supported by The National Lottery. The theatre has said that tickets have sold fast, “signalling a hunger for the return of live entertainment and the beloved festive tradition.”
Even though the shows will go online, it doesn’t stop us enjoying ourselves whilst supporting theatres. Lose yourself in a show, laugh and have fun with the huge array of Pantomimes and Christmas shows available to us, including:
It is a shame that we must enjoy these shows from the comfort of our own home this year and not having the full theatre experience we are used to.
But performances and panto will be back bigger and better next year, and I cannot wait!