It saddens us to have to announce that for the first time in our history, there will be no Paignton Pantomime this year and Jack and the Beanstalk will now be our 2021/22 pantomime.
We remained optimistic as long as we could and our friends at the Palace Theatre really did their very best to help us try and make it work but in the end it was obvious that it would have been too much of a risk to undertake this year’s panto . We had been hoping things would improve and social distancing would be reduced but it was not to be. We had the amazing offer from the theatre of the huge stage left in which to rehearse socially distanced , and for additional dressing room space, and the theatre has excellent Covid protocol in place , however the financial implications of a socially distanced full house means that whereas we played to 4663 (average 333) with our last pantomime, this year the maximum would have been 1734 (average 133).
We examined what costs we could reduce but inevitably it then begs the question of how far we are willing to cut things to get a show on, when it would not be what our patrons expect or have grown to love. In addition, we would have had to reduce cast numbers, perhaps not had our popular junior dancers, reduce the number of costumes used, possibly reduce numbers of musicians. Audiences are still not allowed to interact (an essential of pantomime), and we would not have been allowed to have children up from the audience or have our ever populate water spraying. The staging would have proved a difficult exercise with most cast having to socially distance on stage which would have made the dance routines rather boring to watch and we could only have had a maximum of 8 to 10 people on stage at any time ( which would have meant very big changes to the style of show – i.e. we had 35 in the final of our last pantomime), let alone the complications for back stage crew in confined spaces.
Our rehearsals would have been a rather worrying time trying to keep Covid out of the cast. If once cast member became ill there could have been disruption (even if it turned out to be a cold – look what’s happening in the schools) and what if that happened during the run with multiple cast members potentially having to isolate. There was also the worry of further local or national lockdowns causing disruption.
The few remaining professional pantomimes that are happening are creating cast bubbles where the cast are living together not socialising at all over the Christmas period. We simply cannot expect that of an amateur cast where most of them would’ve been going to school or work every day. In the end, we concluded that the risk was too great, especially as our insurers have now removed cover for this kind of eventuality.
Keep safe and we will see you all next year.