Media release - issued 10 Sep 2020

Curtain falls on this year's panto

With continued uncertainty around the timescales for the full re-opening of theatres for live performances, Rushmoor Borough Council has taken the difficult decision to postpone the Princes Hall's Christmas pantomime, 'Dick Whittington', until 2021.

The annual pantomime is the theatre's flagship production and attracts around 20,000 people each year. Last year's production of 'Jack and the Beanstalk' saw record box office sales and received huge critical acclaim.

Councillor Marina Munro, Rushmoor Borough Council's Cabinet Member for Planning and Economy, said: "This is a decision made with a very heavy heart. The annual pantomime is the Princes Hall's 'jewel in the crown' and the production that contributes most to the financial viability of this, and almost every other theatre. However, public safety must be our number one priority, and with the recent national rise in Covid-19 cases, we cannot in good faith continue to plan for a Christmas show that appears increasingly unlikely to be in a position to go ahead. I have no doubts, however, that this great Aldershot tradition will be back next year stronger than ever!"

Princes Hall Manager David Phillips said: "Our pantomime has built an enviable reputation over recent years, and postponing the show has been an extremely difficult​ decision. Like all theatres, we have been seeking some sort of clarity as to when social distancing regulations may be dropped so that venues can fully re-open. Presenting professional productions in a significantly reduced capacity auditorium is simply not financially viable, and we feel we have little choice but to postpone. The safety of our staff, cast and audiences is of course paramount, and the risk of continuing with our plans at this stage appears simply too great. It is extremely disappointing for everyone associated with the show, but particularly our audiences for which the panto is a huge part of their Christmas celebrations".

Aldershot pantomime legend Robert Hopkins, who has been producing, directing, co-writing and starring in the show for over twenty years, said: "Preparations for the pantomime takes many months, and we have reached the point where we simply needed to make a decision. This will be the first Christmas since 1993 that I won't be appearing on the Aldershot stage, and I'm going to miss it terribly. Many of the production team and cast members, as well as the theatre staff,  have also been involved in the show for many years, and it is a huge wrench to postpone it. A Christmas with no bench, no five toilet rolls, and no Dame Donovan. It really is very sad. However, I can promise our audience that we will be back with something very special in 2021!"

​The Princes Hall will be contacting ticket holders for this year's 42 performance run of 'Dick Whittington' over the next few days. Customers who have either bought tickets, or made a reservation, will have their bookings transferred to the equivalent performance in 2021. If this does not suit, customers can either move to an alternative performance, or receive a credit note or full refund. The theatre is currently operating with limited staff, so customers are asked to wait to hear from the venue rather than calling the Box Office if possible.

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