Pantomimes in Kent for 2020 affected by coronavirus including cancelled Marlowe Theatre panto and socially distanced panto at The Stag Sevenoaks

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 Theatre in Canterbury has been forced to postpone its production of Jack and the Beanstalk until 2021.

Pantomime dame Ben Roddy as Mother Goose. Pic: The Marlowe Theatre (39854664)
Pantomime dame Ben Roddy as Mother Goose. Pic: The Marlowe Theatre (39854664)

It is among three Kent pantomimes to confirm they won't be running this year. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was set to open in December at the Assembly Hall Theatre in Tunbridge Wells but will now not go ahead until 2021 and Medway Council has said Peter Pan at The Central Theatre will not take off this Christmas either.

The Marlowe 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.

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.

“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.”

Snow White at the Assembly Hall Theatre, Tunbridge Wells has been postponed
Snow White at the Assembly Hall Theatre, Tunbridge Wells has been postponed

The show is expected to go on over in Sevenoaks this Christmas with a Covid-safe staging of panto favourite Jack and the Beanstalk.

The Stag theatre in Sevenoaks will run performances between December 18 to January 3.

More than 250 tickets have already been sold for the socially-distanced show, jokily titled Jack And The Two Metre Beanstalk, which will take place in front of a significantly reduced audience thanks to coronavirus safety precautions.

Empty seats in front, behind and to the sides of each family who attend mean the auditorium will only hold around one third of normal capacity.

The Stag Theatre in London Road, Sevenoaks (39854967)
The Stag Theatre in London Road, Sevenoaks (39854967)

A statement on the panto website says: "Some things have had to change to make this year’s show financially viable, so as well as a smaller cast and smaller budgets, the show will be shorter too.

"Jack And The Beanstalk will be approximately 90 minutes long with no interval - just the right length for a festive family treat, but without the break in between, which makes social distance planning a little tricky."

Cast members will be making sacrifices to ensure the run goes smoothly. They will be tested for the virus in November and then self isolate for 10 days prior to rehearsals beginning.

They will then create a 'bubble' between their household and the show, giving up Christmas and New Year celebrations, and avoiding restaurants, bars and shops during the festive period.

The Bedgebury Christmas Lights Trail is expected to go ahead this winter with measures in place to help ensure all government guidelines are met. To learn more about the event and how to book tickets click here.

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