COVID-19: The panto players bringing drive-in Christmas cheer | UK News
It is an odd experience going to a drive-in pantomime.
It’s out with the dress circle and stalls, and in with your own car and the production is streamed to you via the radio.
Audience participation is perplexingly different too, clapping is replaced with the beeping of car horns and flashing of headlights.
In a time of COVID-19, it is a socially-distanced dream, with everyone keeping to their own car bubbles.
Car park pantomimes have been deemed the remedy to a sour 2020.
For many, Christmas isn’t the same without a trip to the panto, and with theatres in Tiers 3 and 4 unable to open, one company has found an alternative way to spread Christmas cheer.
The cast of Horrible Christmas, from the Birmingham Stage Company, is touring the UK at various outdoor venues throughout December and January.
For many of the actors involved, this is the only work they have had in months.
But while enjoyable and much-needed, it comes at a price.
All of the cast has committed to being in a ‘show bubble’, and therefore will be spending the festive season away from their family and friends.
Neil Foster, a cast member and manager of the Birmingham Stage Company, will be hosting all 11 of the actors at his house on Christmas Day.
Speaking to Sky News, Mr Foster said the process had been extremely unusual but necessary.
“We’ve all been rehearsing and living and eating and sleeping in the same house – sometimes four to a room – in order to be together.
“And we have got to be like that for five weeks, so no-one can come anywhere near us and we can’t go shopping or have a quick drink after a show like actors like to do to relax.
“We’re touring around the country in a tour bus – everyone’s sleeping in bunks – in order to bring Christmas to the British people.”
No-one is allowed to be near the cast members as an outbreak within their tight-knit team could halt the tour completely.
The production team is also in a bubble of its own – and they have to remain apart from the cast.
But the actors are willing to make the sacrifice, after what has been a difficult year for their industry.
Alison Fitzjohn is an actress and part of the production. She says the Arts industry has taken a hit from the pandemic which has led to difficulties for many.
“There have been some dark times as an actor. There have been times where you think, ‘do I need to do the whole retrain thing? Do I need to go down another route?’
“Everyone’s had such a hard year. As actors, acting is part of who you are. It’s not just what we do. And so to perform and entertain people is just fantastic.
“The kind of the joy that we all have in this production is quite magical.”
The government has pledged a £1.57bn rescue deal to prop up the Arts industry.
And although the car park panto team believes there have been some missed opportunities in the government action, they all feel lucky to be involved in the project.
The Horrible Christmas Car Park Panto runs until 3 January.