Socially distanced pantomime in Birmingham set to go ahead in New Year.

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Birmingham Hippodrome pantomime going ahead with help from the National Lottery.

It’s fast approaching that o’ so festive time of year again.  Soon it will be time to don those Christmas jumpers and buy that mulled wine you’ve been eyeing up for the past month. Whilst usually people would get into the swing of things with a hearty Christmas market or going ice skating unfortunately that won’t be possible this year. 

Luckily, there’s one joy of the holiday season that we won’t be missing out on, pantomimes! In January, the Alexandra Theatre will be hosting a one-act socially distanced pantomime. This will be the theatres first performance in ten months. The pantomime is going to star Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood as the sheriff of Nottingham.

Why are pantomimes so successful every year? Maybe it’s the childish nature of the show that brings back those jovial feelings from when you were a kid. Maybe it’s a way to escape and forget about adult issues for a while. Maybe it’s just good family entertainment. Either way, there’s just something about pantomimes that instantly makes you feel happier and more in the Christmas spirit.

Kenneth Alan Taylor, who has worked in the panto industry for over 60 years, spoke to BBC Bitesize and commented on what makes pantomimes so popular. “It’s the first-time children see theatre. It’s absolutely vital that you give them good production values, and something that they can relate to without talking down to them.” Kenneth also said that pantomimes should be for the whole family and won’t run the risk of offending anyone, it’s the “familiarity and safety” that families return for.

However, how will this pantomime survive being socially distanced with less than half the usual crowd there? How will this affect the revenue and price of tickets or just the general atmosphere of the play?

Usually, during a pantomime, the actors would have a frequent repartee with the audience with such classics as “Oh no he didn’t”, “Oh yes he did” and “He’s behind you!” However, with an audience of around a third of the usual capacity, it might feel deathly quiet in the auditorium. With this back and forth between the actors and audience being diminished slightly this could have astronomical effects on the atmosphere of the play. Pantomimes are known for being loud and brash with at least a few moments of audience participation. With a significantly reduced crowd size critics suggest that the pantomime may fall a little flat.

The pantomime will be going ahead with the help of the National Lottery who are helping fund part of the performances to become finically ‘viable’. Without the extra funds, the performance may not have been possible at all. The production team have said that because of the help the public won’t go without “the magic of pantomime this year”.Lisa Mart, the theatre director for the company said that being able to bring actors back to the theatre is “the Christmas present we have all been dreaming of”.

Image Credit: ATG Tickets