Can theatres survive another Christmas of covid cancellations?

For many regional theatres, their Christmas pantomime is the biggest show of the year. Its particularly British mixture of slapstick humour, double entendres and gender switching continues to delight audiences across generations. And a successful panto season can set a theatre up for the rest of the year to produce more experimental and creative dramas that are a foundation stone of Britain’s performing arts industry. After last year’s wipeout of Christmas shows, many had hoped for a return to packed theatres this December, but that is now looking an ever more precarious prospect. West End shows are postponing and even cancelling their Christmas shows as cast members and theatre staff fall ill.

Nosheen Iqbal visits the cast of Sleeping Beauty at the Cube theatre in Corby, Northamptonshire, during their rehearsals for a show still hoping to welcome a full audience for its opening night tonight. But growing concerns about the spread of the Omicron variant and advice from government scientists to limit social interactions have cast doubt on the chances of completing a full run of performances.

The Guardian’s arts and culture correspondent, Harriet Sherwood, tells Nosheen that another cancelled Christmas season will leave theatres in some parts of the country facing an existential crisis. As things stand, the government is not yet showing a willingness to financially support the entertainment industry during the present Covid wave while venues are, in theory at least, able to remain open.



Photograph: Sheila Burnett/Kings Theatre Trust Ltd/PA

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