A letter to our audiences, from Mercury Executive Director, Steve Mannix.
To our wonderful audiences and community,
Tracey, Ryan and I are devastated to announce that after much thought and consideration, we have no choice other than to postpone our 2020 Christmas pantomime. We’ve held on for as long as we can, along with many other similar sized regional theatres, hoping against hope that we would receive clear guidance from the government on when our venues would be allowed to reopen fully and safely to the public.
Unfortunately, we have now been told to not expect that guidance until November which is far too late for a show that would open that same month. So the time has come for us to make a call so that we can plan and prepare not only for the next few months, and the safety of our audience and staff working on the show, but also for the security of our future.
Believe me when I say that we would have loved nothing more than to leave lockdown, opening our doors to a magical Mercury panto for our audiences and community to enjoy; to see all the smiling, happy faces entering our auditorium to enjoy a fun-filled festive tradition with their families, school groups and friends. To watch children and their grandparents cheering our hero, to see audiences of our ‘adult only’ nights hiss and boo the baddy. The flashing wands and ice creams and sweeties. It truly is our favourite time of year – the auditorium comes alive and those 2 hours of glitter, music and dance seem to put the world to rights. Personally, I believe panto is best enjoyed when surrounded by fellow audience members in a full, buzzing auditorium. It adds an energy, a sense of community, and of course it bolsters our performers and production team to know that they have 500+ people excited to enjoy the magical world they’ve spent months creating, twice a day.
When we have confirmation on whether theatres will be allowed to open in November, we suspect it will be at a social distance only. To run our Christmas show with social distancing measures in place would reduce our capacity to from 530 seats to just 125 tickets per show. We believe this would not only feel just a little less magical for everyone involved, it would also be financially impossible. At the Mercury we fully produce our pantomimes every year. That includes making the sets, props and costumes ourselves. It is a huge investment of time, money and talent. To break even on the cost of creating our show, tickets would need to increase to around £100 each which we would never want to do. All this without factoring in the additional costs required to ensure that you, the cast and everyone at the theatre were all kept safe as you watch; temperature checks, masks, sanitizing and queue management.
For us, like many other regional theatres, the ticket income from pantomime carries us through the rest of the year, enabling us to produce our other shows and take our participation work with adults and young people out into the community. To not have that income this year will have a huge impact on what we can deliver next year.
We are so grateful that we did go ahead with Cinderella last year, taking you all on a magical journey to a temporary venue while our building undergoes a huge revamp as part of our Mercury Rising capital campaign. Our plans were shaping up nicely for this year’s festive treat, but our efforts haven’t gone to waste. We plan to announce our 2021 title shortly and promise to bring you our best panto yet next Christmas!
We’ve said it so many times, and we’ll say it until the cows come home – we can’t thank you, our audiences, enough for your ongoing patience and support. It means the world to us, it really does. We also wouldn’t be in such a fortunate position without the support of our funders, in particular Colchester Borough Council and Arts Council England as well as our staff and the wider theatre community – and unreserved thanks to you all.
If you, as a valued audience member, want to help us get through this uncertain time, you can do so in a number of ways. The easiest perhaps is to donate what you can to the Mercury so we can secure our future and continue to produce magical experiences on and off stage for you all.
For an easy way to do this, you can text* to donate now:
- Text PANTO 3 to donate £3 (your interval ice cream) to 70085
- Text PANTO 10 to donate £10 (your interval drinks) to 70085
- Text PANTO 20 to donate £20 (your ticket price) to 70085
You can also donate an amount of your choice online here:
We are really disappointed that we’ve had to make this decision, and we know you will be too. We’ll miss you this Christmas, but make no mistake, we’ll see you all again soon.
Steve Mannix, Tracey Childs, Ryan McBryde
*All texts cost the chosen amount plus your standard network charges.