Let’s be completely honest here, coronavirus and the government’s handling of it all has completely paralysed the theatre industry, and everything has been a horrendous struggle. And it doesn’t look like it is going to be getting much better any time soon. With the government failing to offer any support or guidance on everything, in particular failing to suggest when theatres could reopen without social distancing in place, the theatre industry is struggling to stay afloat. The ongoing situation has now reached such a point where pantomimes are beginning to be cancelled or postponed up and down the country. And it’s absolutely heart-breaking.
For many regional theatres, pantomimes are absolutely crucial. Christmas is often the busiest time of the year for many theatres, with many jumping at the change to take a trip to a pantomime that the entire family can enjoy together. Many theatres rely on the ticket sales for their annual pantomime to see them through the following year, so with many theatres being forced to cancel their festive shows, things are beginning to look very dire. Some theatres have been able to postpone their pantomimes instead of cancelling them all together, and whilst I always say that a postponement is better than a cancellation, the theatres are still losing out big time. We can hope that those who have tickets for panto this year will be happy to move their ticket reservations to the next year, and I am hopeful that many would, but that may not be enough for some theatres.
Whilst some theatres are going ahead with pantomimes with a socially distanced audience, this may not be a viable option for many theatres.
Knowing how important pantomimes are to many theatres and their ability to continue, I’ve been beginning to wonder if they really have to be postponed for a whole year. I understand that no one knows when theatres will be able to open their doors to full capacity audiences, but let’s say that they are able to by spring. Do pantomimes have to be a Christmas thing? Could they be performed at Easter?
Pantomimes have been associated with Christmas for many years and have become as much a part of the festive season as turkey dinners, presents and carol singing. But in the extreme and difficult circumstances that 2020 have thrown at us and the theatre industry, this year’s festive season could be panto-less, and many may be forced to wait a whole year to see another pantomime. Theatres have been dark for a very long time now and I’m starting to think that if they can’t stage a panto by Christmas, an Easter panto may be just the thing they need.
Can you imagine the amount of families who will be searching for ways to entertain the children over the Easter holidays? After months and months of being stuck inside during 2020, with very little to do but sit in front of screens or potter around the house, I am sure that children would be absolutely delighted at the idea of going to see a show. It doesn’t even need to be as big and flash as many of the pantomimes we have grown used too. Even a smaller panto would be enough to entertain families.
If you asked a child if they wanted to go and see Cinderella, or Aladdin, or Snow White, they wouldn’t care if it was a big name star, or if the set would huge and over the top, they would just want to see a show with a character and a story that they recognise. If families were offered the chance to buy tickets to a family friendly pantomime over the Easter holidays, I really think that they would jump at it.
Pantomimes may be famously associated with Christmas, but that doesn’t mean that they should only be allowed to be performed at Christmas. Panto could be performed at any time of the year really. The scripts and the jokes within it could be altered to fit with the time of year and the fairy tales used in pantos are never massively associated with a certain season, meaning that they could fit in anywhere really. Personally, I would love to see some pantomimes performed at Easter, for not only would it provide much needed entertainment to families, but it would be a huge boost for theatres who have been closed up for most of 2020.
Theatres up and down the country will need something to kickstart their finances again, something to bring in some much-needed money and I think an Easter/spring pantomime would be the perfect thing to give theatres that kickstart in 2021.