Dames in distress: Britain’s theatres count cost of Christmas wrecked by Covid | Theatre

As panto season attracts to an finish, Britain’s theatres are counting the cost of one other Christmas wrecked by Covid, with cancelled reveals decimating revenue throughout a historically profitable interval.

York Theatre Royal’s Cinderella – whose star and understudy each needed to self-isolate – cancelled 12 performances with an estimated loss of as much as £200,000. Theatr Clwyd’s Magnificence and the Beast achieved ticket gross sales akin to pre-Covid instances however the Welsh authorities’s Covid restrictions, launched on Boxing Day, led the venue to cancel all remaining performances, price an estimated £500,000. At Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph theatre, nearly half of Jack and the Beanstalk’s run was misplaced as a result of of coronavirus instances in the corporate; now the theatre hopes to draw viewers to an online version this month.

Liverpool Everyman’s rock’n’roll pantomime Robin Hood, which ends this Saturday, had nearly a 3rd of performances cancelled, amounting to at the very least £100,000 in ticket revenue – by no means thoughts the misplaced ice-cream gross sales. Christmas was a important interval, mentioned its CEO, Mark Da Vanzo. The monetary success of the panto, postponed from 2020, “underpins the remainder of the creative programme all year long”.

Robin Hood’s first week was cancelled as a result of Covid instances prevented the set from being provided in time. A further 15 reveals have been misplaced owing to forged and crew sickness. “If we get by means of to Saturday, we’ll have delivered 50 reveals out of a deliberate 71,” mentioned Da Vanzo. “That’s fairly good going contemplating all the things we’ve needed to face with Omicron and the isolation guidelines.” The forged included two “swing” performers, who fill in for different roles when required, and an understudy was accessible to cowl. With out them, “we’d have misplaced much more reveals”, mentioned Da Vanzo. “As soon as Covid received into the corporate, it was very laborious to cease it transmitting.”


Gown to impress … Matthew Quinn as Josie Jingles in Robin Hood on the Everyman, Liverpool. {Photograph}: Robert Day

The Christmas season on the Everyman and its sister theatre Liverpool Playhouse was supported by a grant of £283,599 from Arts Council England’s Tradition Restoration Fund and Da Vanzo famous that final yr’s VAT discount had additionally helped. It meant the theatre didn’t want to use for a share of the federal government’s £60m emergency funding introduced in December to sort out Omicron’s affect.

Perth theatre was among the many venues to cancel a festive present mid-run when new Covid restrictions got here into impact in Scotland on 27 December. Its Cinderella opened in November to rave critiques. Written and directed by ugly sister Barrie Hunter, it grew to become the theatre’s bestselling panto so far and drew an viewers from surrounding areas together with Dundee, Fife and Stirling, mentioned chief government Nick Williams. “It’s an enormous inflow of folks and the quantity of cash they spend is significant not only for us however for the town centre.” However on 14 December, first minister Nicola Sturgeon requested the inhabitants to minimise contact with folks in different households. A 50% drop in gross sales ensued, mentioned Williams.

The restrictions introduced in on 27 December to minimise threat of transmission included one-metre bodily distancing and a cap of 200 folks in indoor theatres. Cinderella grew to become unviable: “the entire thing simply collapsed”. Perth theatre normally seats round 500; its viewers would have been diminished to beneath 80. The theatre was on the right track to make 22% extra revenue from its panto than in 2019, however finally 40% of the run was cancelled. The affect can be felt all yr, mentioned Williams, as viewers confidence had been dented. The theatre is ready to see how a lot help will come from the Scottish authorities’s mitigation fund.


Benjamin Lafayette in Cinderella at York Theatre Royal.Completely Charming … Benjamin Lafayette in Cinderella at York Theatre Royal. {Photograph}: Pamela Raith

New restrictions in Wales – together with the identical 200 viewers cap however a larger social distancing requirement of two metres – led Theatr Clwyd to cancel Magnificence and the Beast from Boxing Day to fifteen January. With the secondary revenue that comes from bar and merchandise gross sales, the theatre initiatives a loss exceeding £500,000.

Even theatres that cancelled comparatively few performances have felt the hit. Bristol Previous Vic’s Robin Hood misplaced seven reveals from a run of 52. The theatre took 70% of the revenue that will have been anticipated pre-Covid. Twelve performances of Cinderella at York Theatre Royal have been cancelled, with two additional reveals added. However chief government Tom Fowl mentioned attendance had been encouraging and that 64% of this yr’s viewers have been making their first ever journey to York Theatre Royal.

Jack and the Beanstalk at the Stephen Joseph theatre, Scarborough.Behind you! Jack and the Beanstalk on the Stephen Joseph theatre, Scarborough. {Photograph}: Tony Bartholomew


Different venues warn of an unstable atmosphere precipitated by Omicron and the federal government’s plan B. Manchester’s Royal Alternate cancelled only a handful of performances of its Christmas present however the theatre mentioned viewers attendance had develop into unpredictable, with as much as 40% of tickets bought inside 48 hours earlier than a efficiency. Pre-Covid, the height time for bookings would have been eight weeks earlier than.

When a present is cancelled, patrons can usually select a refund, credit score be aware or to donate the ticket worth. A number of theatres report a dropoff in donations. “Within the first lockdown we had a big proportion of folks donating – that has decreased,” mentioned Caroline Routh, government director of Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph theatre. In 2019, Covid meant that its deliberate festive spectacular, The Snow Queen, grew to become a spirited one-woman present as an alternative. In 2020, “we have been capable of go together with a five-hander present, which is our regular measurement”. Covid instances among the many Jack and the Beanstalk forged meant 14 performances have been cancelled, together with in the course of the busiest week in the run-up to Christmas, with the loss in ticket gross sales estimated at £35,000. Nevertheless, a grant from the charitable Weston Tradition Fund was used to underwrite threat and the view from this seaside resort is somewhat totally different. “Rather a lot of theatres have stress on their Christmas present,” mentioned Routh. “However we make our cash in the summer season.”

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