Panto Postponed – William Caulfield

Panto Postponed

2020 was to be a great year. Panto had just finished and box office records had been broken. I had a couple of days off then embarked on an eight night tour with my new ‘Our Jimmy’ show. Following that it was straight over to Barbados to start my shows on Cruise Ships, twenty five contracts booked to take me all over the world and right up to panto rehearsals again. Year sorted. I love my work and I love to work. But not to be.

Coronavirus or Covid-19 (if you prefer) arrived in March and over the next few weeks, slowly but surely my entire Cruise ship bookings were cancelled – currently up to mid Oct. Of course I was disappointed but not alone. Millions of us had jobs to go to and work to do but were not allowed to do it. Lockdown was imposed. 2020 on pause.

In fairness to the Government furloughed workers received 80% of their wages and self employed people like me got similar assistance albeit just until the end of next month. But next month is August and the powers that be are encouraging everyone that can to get back to work. In my opinion this is totally correct because a broken economy would be a far bigger crisis than Covid -19.

Relaxations were put in place, shops opened, cafe culture slowly returned, pubs and restaurants were back in business, hair salons etc pulled up their shutters, maybe 2020 was not going to be cancelled entirely.

As a performer, my eye was fixed on the Theatres. With social distancing relaxed to 1 metre the theatre industry was still doomed. Government would not allow any large indoor crowds, (although it was perfectly ok to fill an aircraft for a couple of hours with no social distancing) and my thoughts turned to panto. This would have been my 20th year in panto and my 15th consecutive year in the Millennium Forum in L’Derry. I was aware that tickets had not been on sale and discussions were being held on the feasibility financially with a capacity reduced in line with the restrictions from 1000 to 250. Of course it would not add up. A key factor was also the belief that the experience of pantomime with a tiny spread out audience would be compromised and would indeed affect the magic, beauty and tradition that links the cast to the auditorium with all the usual audience participation. Sadly 2020 will see no panto in the Forum in the Maiden City. Naturally I am gutted. It was my last ray of hope to get out on stage and hear the feedback from an excited crowd this year. The Chinese government have a lot to answer for. Let’s not forget that.

So here I am. 2020 has for me been officially cancelled.

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