FOR MANY families, it’s the highlight of their year and a perfect introduction to theatre. But this year’s Reading Hexagon pantomime is another casualty of the coronavirus pandemic.
Reading Arts and Imagine Theatre had planned to reunite Justin Fletcher and Paul Morse for Beauty and the Beast this Christmas, but in light of current Government guidelines, it is postponing the production until Christmas 2021.
Both Justin – known to millions of youngsters as Mr Tumble – and Paul, one of the best dames in the business, have pledged to make audiences laugh at the rearranged show.
In a statement, Reading Arts said that the decision was made after they had carefully assessed its options in light of social distancing regulations and the financial risk.
Tickets for the show had gone on sale in January, and existing ticket holders will be contacted to port their seats for the new shows. But Reading Arts is also offering refunds or taking a credit for a future booking, as well as transferring to another performance.
The Hexagon’s phone lines are currently unavailable as staff are working remotely.
Steve Boden of Imagine Theatre, which produces the show for Reading Arts, said: “We are very disappointed that we will be unable to stage pantomime in The Hexagon this Christmas but are delighted that this is only a temporary postponement and that Justin Fletcher and Paul Morse will star in Beauty and the Beast in December 2021.”
This view was echoed by Cllr Karen Rowland, Reading Borough Council’s lead member for culture, heritage and recreation, who had been looking forward to booing the villains and going ‘It’s behind you!’ during the ghost scene.
“Reading’s award-winning panto is one of the highlights of the entertainment calendar – so this is very sad news indeed – but understandable given the current safety restrictions in place for theatres,” she said.
“We will all eagerly look forward to its return the following year.”
Although it’s curtains for Beauty and the Beast this year, Reading Borough Council is looking to reopen its venues, which includes South Street and the Concert Hall, as soon as it can and in a safe way.
Cllr Rowland said: “Unlike museums and libraries, there is yet to be a government announcement on when live indoor performances can restart.
“We are working closely with our tour promoters, artistes and partners to reschedule shows and events wherever possible and we will update all ticket holders as soon as these options are confirmed.
“For a cultural fix, I would really encourage people to visit Reading Culture Live www.readingculturelive.co.uk, created in collaboration with Reading UK CIC, brings together in a virtual venue, performances and activities from a wide range of Reading’s arts and cultural organisations.”
The rearranged Beauty and the Beast will run from Saturday, December 4, 2021 through to Monday, January 3, 2022.
For more details, log on to https://whatsonreading.com/venues/hexagon/whats-on/beauty-and-beast