Gaiety to cancel Panto tickets and put on extra shows due to regulations

Situation most difficult faced by theatre in 150 year history, says producer

The Gaiety says  that  many tickets  for  performances of the Little Mermaid between December 7th and January 9th will be cancelled so as to meet the 50 per cent capacity requirements. Photograph: Tom Honan for The Irish Times.

The Gaiety says that many tickets for performances of the Little Mermaid between December 7th and January 9th will be cancelled so as to meet the 50 per cent capacity requirements. Photograph: Tom Honan for The Irish Times.

 

The Gaiety has confirmed it is cancelling half the tickets already sold for its Christmas pantomime saying it has been forced to “let down” customers because of the Government’s decision to limit capacity to 50 per cent.

It expressed frustration at the move and pointed out there had been “no case numbers linked to the theatre” since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.

It said the tickets would be cancelled on a first come first served basis for every performance of the Little Mermaid between December 7th and January 9th.

It also said it was adding “a very limited number of additional shows” with those who have had tickets cancelled to get a pre-sale link and priority access before they are available to the general public.

“In the Gaiety’s 150 year history, we have never before been forced to make such difficult decisions as this,” said the Gaiety owner and pantomime producer Caroline Downey.

“For the last 20 months, families and children have done everything that has been asked of them. We in the arts have done the same - opened safely, putting every protective measure in place to make the theatre a safe and controlled environment.”

She said that despite having “no case numbers linked to the theatre since we re-opened, we have been forced by the Government to turn away people who had very kindly chosen to support us. We now have no choice but to let them down.”

‘First-come, first-served’

She stressed that the Gaiety had “explored every avenue to figure a way to avoid disappointing families and loyal customers, we have decided that it is the lesser of two evils to allow 50 per cent of the audience to see the show and keep cast and crew in employment, rather than cancel the show completely.”

She said tickets would be honoured on a “first-come, first-served basis, based on the date the tickets were purchased. We are so very sorry to those families who bought their tickets in good faith and I’m sure they will feel disappointed and angry at this decision. I can assure you, we empathise with them and share their frustration at this entire situation. Monies will be refunded in full.”

Karl Broderick is the producer of Aladdin which is being staged in the National Stadium in Dublin from later this week and he said that it was “purely by fluke” that the show was in a large venue that could accommodate full houses even with the 50 per cent capacity rule introduced.

This is the first year his production will be using the National Stadium which has a capacity for 2,000. He had already decided to limit the numbers on the basis that demand for pantos in the run-up to Christmas was uncertain but would now be able to use the full venue to spread people out further.

“We can accommodate everyone and that is purely by fluke,” he said.

He expressed frustration at the “mixed message” from Government about the staging of the festive favourites.

“We had the best opening day that we had in 20 years and then about 10 days when it was suggested children couldn’t go to pantomimes, we flatlined completely,” he said. “We still have people messaging us daily asking can children come to the shows. The message has to get out there that we are open.”

He said his production had been hit with cancellations, with one school of close to 700 pulling out of a group booking as uncertainly swirled around live performances last week.

‘Heart-breaking’

“It is heart-breaking for us and for the children and there is no reason for the cancellations. We will be able to accommodate everyone.

The show is set to go on in Cork to with the Opera House there adding an additional 26 shows added to the run to allow for the public health requirement of reducing the capacity of indoor events to 50 per cent.

In order to facilitate the additional shows, the cast will perform multiple shows on several dates, up to 3 shows on some days.

Half of the audiences will be able to hold on to the tickets they have already bought and they will remain valid on the date originally booked.

The other 50 per cent will have to move to new dates and will be selected at random using a lottery system.

The venue will contact the ticket holders who have been selected for new dates and will be working through moving these patrons show-by-show over the coming weeks.

“The great news is that we are going ahead,” says Cork Opera House CEO, Eibhlín Gleeson. “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.”

She accepted that the lottery system was “not ideal” but said it was “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.”

Many tickets for live events in Ireland are sold by Ticketmaster and the company said it was waiting for clarification from individual venues before deciding how to proceed.

“We are still awaiting instruction from event organisers who are working through these new restrictions,” a spokesman said. “We will reach out to fans as soon as we know more. In the meantime, fans can rest assured that if their event is rescheduled their tickets will remain valid for the new date, and if cancelled they will be refunded automatically.”