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Colchester Mercury forced to cancel panto

PUBLISHED: 09:00 12 August 2020

Deborah Tracey as Fairy Godmother with the ensemble in Colchester Mercury's pantomime Cinderella. This year's panto has been cancelled because of the continued pandemic restrictions  Photo: Pamela Raith

Deborah Tracey as Fairy Godmother with the ensemble in Colchester Mercury's pantomime Cinderella. This year's panto has been cancelled because of the continued pandemic restrictions Photo: Pamela Raith

Pamela Raith

Colchester’s Mercury Theatre has joined The New Wolsey Theatre and countless other theatres up and down the country in cancelling its 2020 pantomime.

Nerine Skinner with the ensemble in last year's panto Cinderella. The Colchester Mercury have been forced to cancel this year's Christmas treat because of continued Covid restrictions  Photo by Pamela RaithNerine Skinner with the ensemble in last year's panto Cinderella. The Colchester Mercury have been forced to cancel this year's Christmas treat because of continued Covid restrictions Photo by Pamela Raith

The Mercury’s board took the decision to pull the plug on this year’s panto because of the continued effects of the COVID19 pandemic and the ongoing uncertainty around the government’s plans for reopening and social distancing in UK venues.

Mercury Executive Producer Tracey Childs said that they were left with no choice but to postpone the annual pantomime until next year. “We are devastated not to be able to put on our annual Mercury pantomime this festive season. Like many other regional theatres, panto is not only our financial mainstay, but also an event that our whole community look forward to and enjoy.

“We love seeing our auditorium packed with smiling faces as families and friends enjoy this wonderful Christmas tradition together, but the safety of our audiences and staff, both on and off stage, must be our top priority.

“To open with social distancing measures in place would mean reducing our capacity to around 25%. Unfortunately, it is impossible to produce a show of the quality and standard that you have come to expect from the Mercury on a quarter of the income. Without the clear guidance our industry has been crying out for, this year, we are sorry to say the show cannot go on.”

Deborah Tracey in Colchester Mercury's pantomime  Cinderella. This year's panto has been cancelled because of the continued pandemic restrictions - Photo: Pamela RaithDeborah Tracey in Colchester Mercury's pantomime Cinderella. This year's panto has been cancelled because of the continued pandemic restrictions - Photo: Pamela Raith

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The Mercury, whose record breaking 2019 pantomime, Cinderella, took place in a festival style tent last winter, while their building was closed for redevelopment, was looking forward to reopening their newly refurbished theatre this autumn with a season of unforgettable shows, topped off with a sparkling panto to remember. However, this is not to be.

Mercury Creative Director, Ryan McBryde added: “We have not taken this heart breaking decision lightly. The magic of pantomime comes from the shared experience; a packed auditorium full of friends and families who can interact with the all-singing, all-dancing performers on stage. But under the government’s current social distancing guidelines there is no way we can deliver this.

“Pantomimes take months, if not years in the making - usually by August sets have been built, actors have been cast and costumes have been fitted. Postponing until next year seems like the most sensible and safe option in these circumstances. The plans for our 2020 panto will move to 2021, and we will continue to focus our energy on ensuring that we can open our new building safely, with a launch party and opening season to remember.”

He added that to run the Christmas show with socially distanced measures in place would reduce the theatre’s capacity from 530 seats to just 125 tickets per show. Such small numbers would make the experience feel less magical for everyone plus it would also be financially impossible. To break even, socially distanced tickets would need to increase to around £100 each.

Tracey Childs said that they understood the disappointment that families would be feeling but asked if audiences would continue to support the theatre so it will be in a position to stage next year’s panto. “We would ask anyone who regularly attends our pantomime to consider supporting us during this uncertain time. Whether that’s gifting the Mercury the equivalent cost of your interval ice creams, your ticket price, or more if you are able, donations are desperately needed now to secure the future of your local theatre.”

For an easy way to support your local theatre during these difficult times, text PANTO followed by any amount (eg: PANTO 10 to donate £10) to 70085*, or visit the website for other ways to give.


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