Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds today announced the postponement of its planned pantomime, “Cinderella” to 2021/22
Like many theatres, pantomime is the largest event in the calendar for the theatre. It contributes considerably to maintaining the financial stability of the theatre for the following year and helps fund the life-changing community engagement work with groups such as Women’s Refuge, Age UK and those supporting the homeless.
The Theatre Royal team have spent many weeks considering the practicalities of a socially distanced pantomime but with maximum capacity at less than half, it has proved not to be financially viable. No further announcement from the government regarding indoor performances without social distancing is expected before November.
Owen Calvert-Lyons, Theatre Royal Bury St Edmund’s chief executive, feels it was the responsible decision to make.
He said: “Everyone loves pantomime, the 25,000 audience members who attend each year, the theatre staff and volunteers, the professional cast and the young chorus – it is the magical highlight of the theatre year.
“This festive tradition which brings so much joy and laughter, however, is also a financial life-line for theatres like ours. At this point in time we don’t know what situation we will find ourselves in during November, December and January with regard to the virus.
“The future of the theatre and the safety of our audience members, staff and cast is too valuable to risk going ahead with a production which won’t deliver a surplus and may have to be cancelled at the last minute if Covid-19 cases increase or a member of the cast were to test positive, so postponing until next year is the only sensible course of action. Cinderella will go to the ball – just fashionably late.”
Roger Quince, chairman of the Board of Trustees, backs the difficult decision.
He said: “I am immensely proud of the theatre management team who have approached this decision with rigour, and myself and the other Trustees support this move.
“Our doors have been closed since March and we have suffered huge financial losses as result but the diligence of the team has put Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds in the best possible position to survive this crisis.
“We were in receipt of an Arts Council Emergency Response grant in the Spring and will apply for an additional grant from the government’s recently announced Culture Recovery Fund. In addition, we have been overwhelmed by the generosity of the community in raising almost £60,000 for Theatre Royal. Whilst it is devastating to have to cancel this much-loved production, the decision will provide us with the best chance of raising the curtain for many years to come.”
The theatre is still operating on a skeleton staff and have asked that customers with bookings for “Cinderella” don’t contact them – they will be in touch with options for transferring tickets to next year.