Portsmouth panto axed as Georgian theatre reveals Dickensian replacement

A THEATRE furious with a rival venue for staging the same panto has axed its production saying the show had become 'unviable'.

Thursday, 1st October 2020, 12:02 pm
Updated Thursday, 1st October 2020, 2:01 pm

Groundlings Theatre, in Portsea, was due to put on Dick Whittington but had branded Southsea’s The Kings Theatre actions as ‘inappropriate rivalry’ when it announced the same panto.

Seasonal pantos are local theatres’ biggest earners, and relied on to bring in funding for other shows.

Now the Kent Street theatre has said a new, in-house version of A Christmas Carol will be put on instead in a bid to turn 'an unfortunate situation into something good'.

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Jack and the Beanstalk Cake at the Groundlings Theatre in 2019. Picture: Steve Spurgin

The show will be the first time The Groundlings Theatre Trust, the new operators of the venue, will have put on a production - and the first since Covid-19 shutdown the industry nationwide.

Groundlings Theatre production coordinator, Amy Harrison, said: ‘Whilst we are obviously disappointed at not being able to stage Dick Whittington this year, there were too many factors making the production unviable.

‘But we are an incredibly resilient company and what we have planned for this new version of A Christmas Carol, we believe will leave audiences with a big smile and feeling full of Christmas cheer.’

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Tickets are already on sale and auditions are also set to be held for ensemble cast members.

Professional actors are due to make up the core cast, with the auditions open to amateurs in the area who want first-hand experience.

The auditions are part of the theatre’s opportunities programme to encourage people's careers.

The Georgian theatre, returned to former glory from being derelict in 2010, has been awarded Visit England’s Good to Go status.

This means it is fully compliant with Covid-19 regulations, including socially-distanced seating.

A spokeswoman added: ‘Not only will this be the first production by the charity that recently took over operation of the historic building, the classic Christmas story by Charles Dickens has even greater sentiment with the Georgian theatre as it was the location where Elizabeth Dickens went into labour and her waters broke during a dance held by the original operators, the Portsea Beneficial Society.’

Last year’s panto was Jack and the Beanstalk.

A Christmas Carol runs from December 11 to 30.

For tickets see groundlings.co.uk or call (023) 9273 7370.

Children's tickets cost £13, with adults at £17. Concessions are available.

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