Oh yes they did - Cork Opera House has found a way to stage its Christmas panto despite the re-introduction of public health restrictions which have reduced audience capacity to 50%.
On the day the new restrictions kick in, it has been announced that an additional 26 shows will be added to the near sold-out panto run with half of all ticket-holders now set to be selected by lottery to attend one of the new shows. The move will see the cast and crew staging multiple shows on several dates, with up to three shows on some dates.
The panto, which was due to open on Thursday, will now open on Saturday afternoon. The run, which was due to end on January 9, has been extended to mid-January.
This year’s panto, which featured a reduced cast, a reduced 75-minute running time without an interval, had been sold at 100% capacity.
Cork Opera House CEO, Eibhlín Gleeson, said the future of the show was “touch and go” for a while after Friday’s announcement from government of the new public health restrictions which cap audiences at indoor events at 50% capacity.
She had appealed over the weekend for patience as management assessed various options, discussed them with the cast and crew, and presented a proposal to the board of the Opera House.
And this morning, she said: “The great news is that we are going ahead. It was touch and go for a few days while we established if it was actually possible for us to do it.
“However, the thought of cancelling the show was devastating to us all having put so much love and energy into it to this point. With the support of our committed cast and dedicated staff, we are delighted to have found a way to move forward.
"What this means is that 50% of our audiences can retain their tickets and they will be valid on the date that they booked. However, this will also mean that the remainder of our audiences will have to move to new dates.
“We know this is not ideal - but it’s the only way that all of our panto bookers will get to see the show. Our patrons have been so supportive so far, I’m confident that they will work with us in accommodating these changes.”
Patrons will be chosen to move to new show dates or times by lottery and Opera House staff will contact those who have been selected over the coming weeks to work through the process show-by-show.
Ms Gleeson said staff will try to facilitate patrons with alternative dates in so far as is possible, and that those patrons who are not chosen by lottery, will have their arrangements confirmed in writing.
“From Thursday this week, we will be contacting affected patrons on a chronological basis, starting with this week’s shows and working through each show to the end of the run,” she said.
“For now, there is no need to contact us, our box office team will be alerting you if there has been a change to your tickets.
“We are very lucky to be able to add additional shows, but this does mean that our cast and staff will be working harder than ever before to ensure that this year’s panto goes ahead as planned.
“Panto is so important to our audiences. We feel that after the difficulties of recent years, it’s really important to find a way for families to retain their Christmas traditions of coming to the Cork Opera House panto.
“We are really excited to welcome our panto audiences back.”
Restrictions will be in place at each of the shows, with patrons required to wear face coverings and Covid vaccination certs and ID checks at the door for patrons aged 18 and over. There will be a queueing system in place once inside the theatre.
Meanwhile, the city’s historic Everyman Theatre, which sold tickets for its panto, Aladdin, with 60% capacity in the hope of increasing it during the run, said it’s working hard to re-allocate tickets to the small number of people whose bookings have been affected by the new restrictions.
“Please bear with us and we'll be in touch with you in the coming days if your booking has been affected. You don't need to do anything - we'll contact you and will do our best to accommodate you with a new date that suits,” it said.
“We have plenty of availability left and anyone who has booked to see this year’s panto will be looked after.”