Fringe Box



Pandemic Robs Guildford of Our Robin Hood Panto This Christmas

Published on: 22 Jul, 2020
Updated on: 24 Jul, 2020

The ghost light maintaining the faith on the stage at the Yvonne Arnaud

Guildford’s great Christmas gift will not be staged this year. “We are devastated to announce we will not be producing our much-loved traditional pantomime,” the Yvonne Arnaud theatre management has said.

“This has been one of the hardest decisions we’ve had to make during this crisis, because we love panto as much as the thousands of audience members who come each year. But we have to face the reality of the impact of Covid-19 on our lives and livelihoods, and we need to protect the long-term future of the theatre.

“Our audiences will know the pandemic has had an overwhelming impact on theatres across the country, putting many of them in crisis. Pantomime presents its own particular challenges. Large casts, live music and dancing are not possible within the present guidelines, even if small numbers of actors can perform.

“At its most successful, pantomime brings much needed financial support to the theatre for the whole year, but if the theatre cannot operate at full capacity, if audiences don’t feel confident in coming, or if performers are taken ill and we need to shut down even for a short number of shows, the impact on the theatre will be catastrophic.

Joanna Read

Twenty per cent of our audience consists of group bookings from schools and other organisations, and already, understandably, many of these have been in touch to let us know they won’t be able to come to panto this year.”

Joanna Read, the director and chief executive, added: “I am deeply sad at having to make this decision.

“The Yvonne Arnaud pantomime is one of the highlights of Christmas in Surrey, and I was so looking forward to directing and producing Robin Hood. I know that, for so many families, like my own, it plays a central part in their Christmas celebrations, often across the generations.”

Peter Gordon has starred in the Yvonne Arnaud panto since 2006, as the Empress of China, voice of the mirror, King, Emperor, an Ugly Sister and, in recent years the Dame. “I can hardly believe we won’t be performing a pantomime this year, but the long term future of our Yvonne Arnaud theatre has to come first,” he said.

Peter Gordon playing the Empress of China in Aladdin at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in 2012.

“We must make sure it’s protected for the future in Guildford. While it’s upsetting for all of those involved that the magic won’t be on the stage in December, we can start looking forward to proper panto fun being back in 2021.”

Customers who have already booked will receive an email confirming their options. Please do not contact the box office because the theatre is working with a reduced staff and are not able to take phone calls.

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