Hippodrome cancels panto and extends closure until February

The iconic Birmingham venue has been forced to cancel its pantomime after no firm date was offered up for venues to host productions with lower levels of social distancing.

The Hurst Street theatre, which is the busiest single theatre in the UK, was due to start performances of Goldilocks and the Three Bears in December, headlined by Jason Donovan and Matt Slack. 

However Qdos Pantomimes, the production company behind a large number of UK pantos, has been forced to look at the viability of staging its shows this year in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Bosses gave the government a deadline of August 3rd to confirm whether a relaxed policy on social distancing looked likely in time for the start of the festive season, but no communication was received.

Based on the length of time needed to get the show onto the stage, and the unviability of performances at less than 70% capacty, the decision has been made to postpone the shows until 2021. This comes as a further blow to the theatre which, along with many others, makes up to 40% of its annual turnover from pantomime season. A spokesperson for the venue said:

"After much discussion and heartache, we are saddened to announce that Birmingham Hippodrome will not be staging live theatre productions in our main auditorium until 1 February 2021 at the earliest.

"We have spoken at length with both Qdos Entertainment and Birmingham Royal Ballet, exploring various scenarios for this year’s pantomime and the annual performances of The Nutcracker. However, it is still not financially viable to host full-scale productions on our main auditorium stage while social distancing remains in place.

"Our sales team will be contacting all ticket holders for both the pantomime and The Nutcracker, along with other affected productions, over the coming weeks.

"Please do not contact the sales team directly. We ask for your patience and kindness at this time as we work through a number of bookings with heavily reduced staff and reduced hours of operation."

Both Jason Donovan and Matt Slack have said they will still be joining the cast of Goldilocks and the Three Bears for its rescheduled dates over Christmas in 2021. Birmingham Royal Ballet have confirmed that they are looking for alternative venues for this years performance of The Nutcracker.

The Hippodrome has sat in darkness since March when it was forced to cut short performances of The Book Of Mormon as the country went into lockdown. Speaking to Black Country Radio, CEO and Artistic Director, Fiona Allan, said the venue makes 92% of its income from ticket sales and has already announced that over 60 of its staff are facing redundancy as no clear date has been confirmed for a viable reopening. One local resident who spoke to us said:

"I can understand why the venue remains closed, but what's hard to comprehend is that our government are happy for people to sit next to each other on aeroplanes for hours with just a face mask protecting them from inhaling too much recycled air - if anyone put virus particles into the cabin the plane would pass them round to everyone.

"But our theatres, with more spacious seating and air conditioning which is replacing the air in the auditorium continually, aren't an option? They've got their priorities completely wrong.

"These venues, which bring in billions to the economy and employ thousands, can't even be given the correct financial support to tide them over. They're sitting on the brink of ruin - maybe the government need to take a long hard look at their plan."


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