Christmas is usually the time when thousands of visitors attend pantomimes up and down the country, but this year has taken an unexpected turn due to the pandemic.

Theatres are closed over Christmas in tier 3 areas. Photo: Abbey Warne

The government announced that, under tier 3 restrictions, published on 30 November, theatres will have to close, meaning pantomimes are unable to go ahead in these areas.

In Lincoln, currently a tier 3 zone, the New Theatre Royal and Lincoln Performing Arts Centre (LPAC) have had to postpone their pantomimes or move them online.

Natalie Hayes-Cowley, artistic director at the New Theatre Royal, said: “It’s awful because we are an independent theatre. Myself and my husband took over the theatre in 2016 and it was a battle to get it going again, and all our pantomimes are run in-house.”

“Our in-house productions are paramount and our Christmas pantomime is important, and because we are an independent theatre, we receive no funding.”

The Culture Recovery Fund from Arts Council England recently granted up to £600,000 to the New Theatre Royal, which Mrs Hayes-Cowley said would go towards improving access, toilet facilities and the general maintenance of the building.

In October, the theatre announced they had postponed their ‘Beauty and The Beast’ pantomime until 2021.

Mrs Hayes-Cowley said: “There were thousands of customers and we broke a record because it took a month to contact them all in November.

“Some people had no mobile number or email on the system, so we had to write letters.

“People were upset because everyone enjoys a good pantomime, but we have put pantomimes online from previous years.”

The theatre have made their ‘Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs’ pantomime from December 2018 and ‘Robin Hood’ from 2019 available online.

LPAC have also had to change their Christmas plans, and have decided to move their shows online as well.

‘A Distant Christmas’ will be available from 19 December until 31 January and ‘The Snow Hare in Winter’ from 24 December until 6 January.

A spokesperson for LPAC said: “The Snow Hare in Winter is being filmed as a recorded stage production for home streaming and A Distant Christmas is an augmented reality app.

“The actors performed in costume against a green screen so that they can be ‘placed’ into real world locations via the screen on your smart phone.

“The ‘audience’ uses the app on their phone to follow a trail through the city centre.”

The spokesperson confirmed that the productions have been filmed with COVID-19 restrictions in mind.

By Abbey Warne

News Editor at The Linc.