Panto 2020 style - Don’t hiss; don’t boo; no shouting please

This year’s pantomime at Shoreham’s Ropetackle will definitely be a pantomime for our times – assuming we come out of lockdown.

Producer, writer and director Tom Beard, of LP Creatives
Producer, writer and director Tom Beard, of LP Creatives

Don’t hiss. Don’t boo. No shouting please.

Producer, writer and director Tom Beard, of LP Creatives, has had to come up with a show – Oh Yes It Is! – A Family Christmas Adventure – entirely safe and appropriate for the strange and horrible times we are going through.

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Tom admits he thought he had written all the pantos he could possibly ever need. Yet this year, he has had to come up with something very different.

“We have had to change because audiences are not allowed to shout out. We are not allowed to incite the audience. Don’t incur the boos and cheers. We have got to tell the audience at the start to kindly shut up.”

And if someone shouts out?

“It’s crazy, but we have got a few tricks ready. If someone shouts out, we have got a few ways of dealing with it, like saying ‘Don’t shout or you will get us arrested!

“We were supposed to be doing Aladdin at Shoreham which is one of my favourites. And then when we had the legs taken out from under us, we decided to do a show with a smaller cast and make it completely safe. The cast (of three) are all friends and will be living in their own bubbles, and there is going to be no crew backstage.

“A lot of panto companies that do tours with theatre in education work like that don’t have crew backstage, so it is not totally out of our realms, and the cast are all young and energetic. They have accepted that this is what has to be done, and they are very keen to get on with it. We have just had to do things differently, but I am absolutely positive that this is going to be great fun. It is full of gimmicks and tricks – and we have just got to get around the restrictions and make things work. You have just got to do what you can do and get into that mentality.

“And you have just got to keep the panto ball rolling. There are a lot of venues that are not doing it at all this year, and I think there is a little bit of laziness there or even selfishness because they don’t want to take the risk. But it is so important to keep the momentum going.

“We have sold out every year in Shoreham for the past eight years. We don’t want to let anybody down and not put anything on. We wanted to do a show and we wanted to give people a good time even in this crazy situation. We wanted to keep the ball rolling and make sure that there was panto at Ropetackle.

“Ropetackle is so important. It has been jeopardised. It has had struggles with funding, and this is another setback for them. We just want to make the best out of a bad situation.”

When the company first did Aladdin in Shoreham, they sold maybe 1,200 seats: “Last year we sold nearly 10,000 seats which just shows how it has built up and how you have got to keep it going.”

Inevitably, with social distancing, they will be playing to around a third of capacity, just 62 people permitted in the audience: “But people still need to come to the Ropetackle. It is such a fundamental part of the community, and they do such a good job. I know a lot of venues that are of a similar ilk or twice the size, and they don’t put anything like the same love or effort into it as Ropetackle does.”

Running time approx 90 mins, including interval. The show will be presented from December 11-31; £15 adults, £13 children on 01273 464440 or http://www.ropetacklecentre.co.uk