Andrew Pollard and Anthony Spargo
Andrew Pollard and Anthony Spargo’s Queen of Hearts was originally due to run over Christmas 2020, then Easter this year

The boss of Greenwich Theatre has called on more financial support after a Covid-19 outbreak put paid to a series of pantomime performances.

The Queen of Hearts was cancelled on Tuesday after the virus swept through the performing company and theatre staff. It will not return until next Wednesday at the earliest.

James Haddrell, the theatre’s artistic and executive director, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “Whilst we can’t be sure what variant people have got, the symptoms are very low or non-existent. So fortunately everyone is feeling healthy.

“People are self-isolating from stage, from the cast, from stage management, from front of house, box office and the administration team, so it really is across the company.”

The pantomime is the biggest show of the year for Greenwich Theatre, and Haddrell said the financial impact of losing the shows was “extraordinary”.

He added: “Even losing a week’s run knocks a hole of 10 per cent in our end of year turnover. Losing the pantomime is huge for us.”

— Greenwich Theatre (@GreenwichTheatr) December 22, 2021

The impact of the Omicron variant has also hit sales for future shows. “Even for the dates that are still on sale, we’re starting to see people not comfortable coming back maybe, and certainly not comfortable booking ahead. We’d normally have our spring season on sale and selling well at this point but I think at the moment everyone is just waiting to see what happens, so it’s a behavioural shift we’re seeing as well.”

Haddrell said said he feared what would happen if new lockdown measures forced him to close the theatre’s doors again. “We need some clarity so we know what we’re doing,” he said.

“There has been support, and I have to say Greenwich Theatre has been well supported. We’ve received all three instalments of the cultural recovery fund, without which we would have gone under, without question. That’s why we’re still here and still trading.

“The challenge is that the third round of cultural recovery funding that so many theatres and arts organisations got was really about tackling lower than expected attendance during this period, it wasn’t about facing new closures.

“So we would hope to see another wave of support in one way or another. I know a lot of industries are hit, including hospitality. But we would hope to see another wave of support.”

He added: “The other thing about the arts is so much of our sector is supported by freelancers. We’re starting to see cancelled shows in January and February as they just can’t guarantee the prep time. So that’s freelancers losing work again, so that’s tough.”

Ticket holders for The Queen of Hearts will be contacted and the theatre is hoping to return to live performances next week.

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Kiro Evans is the Local Democracy Reporter for Greenwich. The Local Democracy Reporter Service is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
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