Published: 16:11, 03 August 2020
| Updated: 17:32, 03 August 2020
Kent’s biggest pantomime has been cancelled for the first time ever amid uncertainty surrounding the reopening of theatres because of social distancing.
The Marlowe in Canterbury has been forced to postpone its production of Jack and the Beanstalk until 2021.
It was set to attract as many as 100,000 people during its run from November to January.
The decision has been made in response to an announcement by the government that it will not be possible, until November at the earliest, to clarify whether indoor performances can take place without social distancing.
This will be the first time in the theatre’s history that it has not been able to present a pantomime at Christmas.
Marlowe chief executive Deborah Shaw said: “We’ve waited to make this decision as long as we could because we know how much our audiences love their yearly visit to see our pantomime.
“However, we’ve had to postpone due to the continued uncertainty around when we’ll be allowed to re-open the main house at full capacity.
“Jack and the Beanstalk will now happen in 2021 and audiences can expect a fantastic show that will bring our gorgeous full-scale pantomime back to The Marlowe, bigger and better than ever.
“We do have a plan B for this Christmas that we’re working on to keep the madcap spirit of pantomime alive this Christmas, which we will announce later in the year.”
The pantomime is the venue's biggest money-spinner every year.
Cancelling it will heap more pressure on the Marlowe, which has already lost £2 million of income after being forced to cancel or reschedule 288 performances as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
This comes after it was revealed last week that employees have been told that 30 members of staff could be made redundant as part of cost-saving measures at the theatre.
Panto producer Paul Hendy said: “The thought of Christmas without The Marlowe Theatre pantomime is absolutely devastating.
“However, the audiences are wonderful and I know they will understand this decision and be supportive of it.
"Will The Marlowe Theatre pantomime return? Oh yes it will.”
Thanet-based comedian and actor Lloyd Hollett, who has starred in the Marlowe pantomime for nine years, said: "It's so devastating to see what is happening to the industry across the country at the moment..on what appears to be getting sadder by the day. My thoughts are with everyone who has been effected by this Pandemic. The day theatres are back to their full strength will be a magical day for us all."
Customers who have tickets for Jack And The Beanstalk will be able to transfer them to next year.
The theatre team will be contacting everyone over the next fortnight to arrange this and customers are advised not to contact the Box Office first.
This follows the announcement last month that a production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs due to be held at the Assembly Hall Theatre in Tunbridge Wells was cancelled.