Lyric Hammersmith postpones 2020 panto following lack of clarity on theatre reopening

By Jordan Ifield
August 12 2020, 17:00

Pantomime lovers in south west London will have to wait until 2021 to see Lyric Hammersmith’s Aladdin which has been postponed due to Covid-19 and social distancing issues.

Production would have started this month but has been delayed to next year with ticket holders automatically transferred to the closest equivalent performance.

The theatre made the announcement on the same day as three other London theatres: Hackney Empire, Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch and the Theatre Royal Stratford East.

Artistic director and joint CEO of the Lyric Rachel O’Riordan said:

“People are very sad but sadly I don’t think anyone’s surprised and it’s not just us.

“All 4 of us are theatres who are very much at the heart of our communities and make panto to generate income for the theatre but also because for a lot of young people attending a pantomime is the first time they’ve ever been in a theatre.

“Last year in pantomime box office represented 30% of our income so it’s a big part of it.

“When you consider that we produced seven shows last year the panto is a really big hitter.”

The decision comes as the government has not yet announced when theatres can open without social distancing in place with a decision due in November, start of the panto season.

“When it became clear we weren’t going to get the clarity on social distancing that we needed to make that decision to do it we had no option.

“Because panto is not a piece of theatre that works socially distanced I don’t think.

“It would mean actors can’t come off the stage to be in the audience, children can’t get up on the stage, no sweets will be thrown, people will have to sit down and not allowed to jump about.”

Celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, the Lyric Hammersmith has been showing pantomime since 1897’s Cinderella and has helped young talent break through, including Hamilton lead Karl Queensborough who played Aladdin in the 2016 Panto.

However such talent will have to wait another year to perform in Panto although it’s not just performers who will be losing out.

Ms O’Riordan said: “Last year in our pantomime we employed 33 freelancers so that’s a lot of people who are not working this year that would have been.

“That’s not including our front of house, casual and bar staff who we hire more of when we’re making panto.”  

The new dates for the pantomime are Saturday November 13, 2021 to Sunday January 2, 2022.

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