Live panto confirmed for East Sussex

Leading family entertainment producer That’s Entertainment Productions and Circus proprietors Acting Moon are determined to ensure that East Sussex gets a taste of live panto this Christmas.

Friday, 4th December 2020, 6:00 am
Chris Gidney
Chris Gidney

Senior producer Chris Gidney, who is based in Bexhill, will be bringing pantomime to Hailsham Big Top adjacent to Knockhatch Adventure Park, BN27 3GD from December 29-January 3.

The panto will head to East Sussex following a stint in Cambridge; and Chris freely admits he doesn’t expect – in this extraordinary year – to make any money from it at all.

“The only profit is going to be the laughter that we are going to get from the audiences.”

And in Chris’s mind, that laughter is crucial. The Covid Grinch is not going to steal Christmas, he insists.

“Dame Dora Trolley has offered to help save the season hosting her very own panto party. Its bursting with madcap magicians, jumping jugglers, silly songs and even the legendary ghost scene with a twist!”

The cast includes Emmerdale’s Anthony Howes and Britain’s Got Talent’s Doctor Bondini in a pop-up panto which promises to deliver all the Christmas fun, laughter and interaction to a socially distanced audience.

Chris expects they will get in an audience of less than a hundred in a circus tent which could take 400-600. But as he says, the flexibility of circus seating means it will be straightforward enough to make sure the audience won’t be looking at empty seats all around them: “It is the perfect space to do this in.”

Of course, nothing is certain: “But I think you have just got to go for it hook, line and sinker.

“The passion to make people laugh and to entertain them, particularly at the moment, is just paramount.

“You have just got to jump every hurdle and aim to do as much as you can.”

If Covid intervenes and the live performances aren’t possible, there is no streaming fall-back. The show won’t go ahead, but people are guaranteed a full refund, Chris stresses.

“The great thing about this particular production is that we have not done anything like it before. I have been in the entertainment industry for more than 50 years, but this is the first time I have done a socially-distanced show.

“My dad was a magician, and I came out of that era of variety – and variety is just perfect for social distancing. The act comes on and goes off; the next act comes on and goes off.

Basically Dame Dora’s Panto Party is a variety show fronted by the Dame. You get all the panto silliness and you also get variety. You have got some very familiar panto sketches that you just can’t have Christmas without – and you have also got all the silliest gags you can imagine. I am going to try to get Donald Trump for next year!

“So it is all the best of panto but with acrobats and magicians and jugglers. We have got some of the circus school students involved. It is going to be a bit of a showcase for them.

“I write all our pantos, but this was fairly easy to write.”

And Chris is convinced it is going to be a great atmosphere.

“I went to see Jesus Christ Superstar in Regent’s Park in the summer, very socially distanced, in the open air. It was the first show to open in London, and despite the fact of all the restrictions, the buzz was just incredible. People were just so keen to be entertained. It will be different of course, but the atmosphere is going to be incredible. Making people laugh is just so important.”