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Scotland Cancels Pantos Antics



Every Christmas in New York City, tourists gather from far and wide to see the famous Radio City Hall Rockettes in all their kick line glory. Well, in Scotland, their Christmas special is pantomime performances at 3 major venues: King’s theatre in Edinburgh, His Majesty’s theatre in Aberdeen and the Grand Opera House in Belfast. Qdos Entertainment Group produces all three of these events as well as West End, Cruise Lines, and other venues across the UK. 

Pantomime, or “panto” for short is known for its variety of slapstick-like comedy, puppetry, and even acrobats, all brought to the stage for audience members annually. Qdos often brings beloved stories, like Snow White, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, or Cinderella, and turns them into panto form for family-friendly comedy for all. They are also known to involve audience members at a moment’s notice to engage with their silly antics.

It is as weird and wonderful as it sounds, but sadly, this tradition will be put on ice this year. Due to the uncertainty of easing up on lockdown restrictions for theaters, Qdos has decided to push back their performances in Scotland to the 2021-2022 holiday season. (Andrew Lloyd Webber tried to test out COVID-19-friendly theater experience, but it was not successful and it doesn’t look like the UK will allow theaters to fully open before the Winter season.)

Tony Whittle (King Eric), Gavin Spokes (Dame Nanny Nora) and Kat B (Denzil the Dragon) during a performance of the panto Sleeping Beauty at the Hackney Empire in Dec 2016.

According to The Guardian, “King’s Theatre puts on the bestselling panto in Scotland, playing to audiences of more than 90,000 each year. It provides nearly 30% of the annual income for its operator, Capital Theatres, and the postponement will result in a £2.3m loss.”

While the decision to cancel a show nearly four months away seems drastic, the planning and rehearsal process begins long before that, so investors, producers, and venues have expressed their caution to spending money on a project this size that could possibly be cancelled in November by the UK government (or allowed by the government but only at such a reduced audience capacity that it isn’t financially viable).

Panto is one of the biggest contributors to income for theaters all over the UK during the holiday season. It is a tradition that has lived on for many decades and patrons everywhere will certainly be sad to miss it. And if you’ve never seen panto live, it’s a great addition to add to a post-COVID bucket list.

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