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, virtually 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 virtually a 3rd of performances cancelled, amounting to at the least £100,000 in ticket revenue – by no means thoughts the misplaced ice-cream gross sales. Christmas was a important interval, stated its CEO, Mark Da Vanzo. The monetary success of the panto, postponed from 2020, “underpins the remaining 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 equipped in time. A further 15 reveals had 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,” stated Da Vanzo. “That’s fairly good going contemplating every thing 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”, stated Da Vanzo. “As soon as Covid bought into the corporate, it was very onerous to cease it transmitting.”

Matthew Quinn as Josie Jingles in Robin Hood at the Everyman in Liverpool.
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 impression.

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 opinions. Written and directed by ugly sister Barrie Hunter, it grew to become the theatre’s bestselling panto thus far and drew an viewers from surrounding areas together with Dundee, Fife and Stirling, stated chief govt Nick Williams. “It’s an enormous inflow of individuals 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 individuals in different households. A 50% drop in gross sales ensued, stated Williams.

The restrictions introduced in on 27 December to minimise threat of transmission included one-metre bodily distancing and a cap of 200 individuals in indoor theatres. Cinderella grew to become unviable: “the entire thing simply collapsed”. Perth theatre often seats round 500; its viewers would have been diminished to below 80. The theatre was on target to make 22% extra revenue from its panto than in 2019, however in the end 40% of the run was cancelled. The impression could be felt all yr, stated 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 higher 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 tasks a loss exceeding £500,000.

Even theatres that cancelled comparatively few performances have felt the hit. Bristol Outdated Vic’s Robin Hood misplaced seven reveals from a run of 52. The theatre took 70% of the revenue that may have been anticipated pre-Covid. Twelve performances of Cinderella at York Theatre Royal had been cancelled, with two further reveals added. However chief govt Tom Chicken stated attendance had been encouraging and that 64% of this yr’s viewers had 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 prompted by Omicron and the federal government’s plan B. Manchester’s Royal Trade cancelled only a handful of performances of its Christmas present however the theatre stated viewers attendance had turn into unpredictable, with as much as 40% of tickets offered 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, consumers can typically select a refund, credit score word or to donate the ticket value. A number of theatres report a dropoff in donations. “Within the first lockdown we had a big proportion of individuals donating – that has decreased,” stated Caroline Routh, govt 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 had been capable of go along with a five-hander present, which is our regular measurement”. Covid instances among the many Jack and the Beanstalk forged meant 14 performances had been cancelled, together with throughout 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 fairly completely different. “Rather a lot of theatres have strain on their Christmas present,” stated Routh. “However we make our cash in the summer season.”