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Chatham panto Beauty and the Beast at the Central Theatre cancelled due to Covid outbreak

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Children were left in tears when a Christmas pantomime was cancelled just minutes before it was due to start.

Audience members at The Central Theatre in Chatham were already in their seats waiting for Beauty and the Beast to begin when they were told the show was off due to a Covid outbreak.

Chatham panto director Flik Swan and choreographer Matt Nicholson talking two weeks ago about their concerns about the impact of Covid

Some people started heckling and there were children crying following the announcement.

The production team said it had no choice but to make the "devastating decision" due to "a number of positive Covid cases within the cast and crew".

The team have been doing Covid tests twice a day. Some had tested positive earlier in the day but the matinee show was still able to go ahead. But further positive results in the afternoon meant the 6pm show had to be called off.

But some audience members were upset they had been allowed into the theatre and spent money on drinks, programmes and souvenirs.

Beauty and the Beast at The Central Theatre Photos: Origin8Photography
Beauty and the Beast at The Central Theatre Photos: Origin8Photography

Abbey Jordan had gone to the show with her two-year-old daughter Millie and family.

She said: "They made us all queue outside until 20 minutes before the show was meant to start.

"Once we was let in we was able to buy brochures, kids light-up toys, drinks.

"[We] Spend all of our money, [they] let us all sit down and then decide to come on stage and tell us due to a Covid outbreak the show was cancelled.

"They decided to let us all in there and spend our money first before telling us the show was cancelled.

Tood Carty plays Beauty's father in the show
Tood Carty plays Beauty's father in the show

"There was kids around me devastated and crying. People were booing. They should of told us before we went in and spent more of our money."

One woman said: "I was horrified at the reaction of some of the audience. They were so disrespectful and ignorantly booed and heckled, which I felt there was no need to do."

People were offered refunds or tickets to next year's panto. It is not yet known if further shows this year will be cancelled. Tickets are still available to book on the website for tomorrow (Tuesday's) performances.

A social media statement from the pantomime team on Sunday evening said: "We have robust Covid protocols which include twice daily testing and these picked up a number of positive cases overnight and before this afternoon’s show.

"We were able to cover the onstage and backstage roles for the 2pm performance, however, during the hour between the matinee and evening performance further members of the company were taken ill and tested positive with the last being at 5.40pm.

"It was not possible to cover these roles at such short notice and still deliver the show safely for everyone.

"Our absolute priority is always the safety and health of our cast, crew and the audiences and therefore, having consulted with the venue management, it was evident that we had no choice but to cancel the evening’s performance and an onstage announcement was made as soon as possible following this decision.

"We are sorry that the decision was made at the very last minute however the situation changed very fast during the hour before the second show.

The cast of Beauty and the Beast Photo: Origin8Photography
The cast of Beauty and the Beast Photo: Origin8Photography

"We have battled to try and keep the show on against all odds but several Covid cases in 24 hours lead to us having to make this devastating decision.

"We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience and disappointment caused. There are no shows scheduled on Monday and we are working hard to put plans in place to be able to confirm arrangements for further performances as soon as possible.

"Once we have more information our box office will contact you regarding your cancelled show booking."

The shows's producer Tim Sitwell apologised again to audience members. He told KentOnline everyone in the cast and crew would be getting a PCR test today (Monday) and they are doing everything they can to restart the show.

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