Following confirmation that tier three restrictions will remain, hoped-for pantomimes and live Christmas entertainments have again come off the Christmas menu in Greater Manchester and Lancashire.
Here’s our rundown of what theatre you can – and can’t – see this Christmas.
In Greater Manchester the tier-three continuation has signalled the end of plans to stage a starry Sleeping Beauty at Manchester Opera House, while the Salford Lowry’s gamble on pressing ahead with the musical Six has turned out to be a losing bet.
An Opera House spokesman said: “Our socially-distanced panto will not go ahead. We applaud everyone in the city for doing their best to help us get into a position to reopen and share some festive cheer. At this stage, we ask for your patience as we contact ticket holders directly.”
The slightly better news for Six is that the show has been rescheduled – again – and will now return on January 8 (to the 17th), presumably Government-willing. The show was originally due to run from November 20-January 10. Ticket holders will be contacted to change their booking.
Hope Mill Theatre Manchester’s plans for a triumphant revival of US musical Rent almost came off - the show opened and closed almost immediately. But the show is now open for online, streamed viewing of its last three screenings, today (Friday), Saturday and Sunday. Details here.
Blackpool will also remain in tier three, but Blackpool Grand Theatre and UK Productions are going ahead with an all-singing, all-dancing pantomime viewers can enjoy at home.
The theatre is recording its production of Pantomonium using high-definition cameras, allowing viewers to get close-in to the action when it is broadcast online.
Tickets to the live theatre show were £25.50 each and the same price applies for the online show, but covers the whole family’s viewing. Customers who bought tickets for the stage show will be asked if they would like to transfer to the new digital pass to see the film. See here for details. The show can be seen until the end of January.
After the news that Leeds would also remain in the most restricted tier, Leeds Playhouse’s gamble on being able to stage a Christmas show also took a blow. So the theatre is launching a new streaming service – Playhouse At Home – with A Christmas Carol.
The Playhouse has worked with Yorkshire based company Pilot Theatre to film the production and share it free with care homes, schools and hospitals in Leeds. For everyone else, tickets, priced from £10, are also now available for five online performances from December 21-23.
Ticket holders who booked for cancelled shows will be sent the digital version for free. The Playhouse is also honouring its commitment to allow 1,000 NHS workers and their families to see the show free.
Liverpool, in tier two, has been less affected by the government’s tier restriction and Liverpool Playhouse has at least been able to run Gemma Bodinetz’s last work there, A Christmas Carol, to great reviews. The show plays until December 24.
The twin Everyman theatre is running the live Everyman Christmas Cabaret until Christmas Eve
and the twin Playhouse-Everyman theatres have just announced a spring season, so strong signs of optimism there.
Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre has been fairly quiet over the last few months, with occasional bursts of activity - one of which is a series of advent films online, changing each day in the run up to Christmas. Find them here.
The films, under the title All I Want For Christmas are a celebration of Manchester, with stories of hope and joy from some of the most inspiring writers, directors and performers from across the region. New films are screened on the url above and also on the theatre’s social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) from 10.30am each day.
In Bolton, the Octagon theatre has had to postpone its big theatre reopening yet again, and this will now take place (provisionally, the theatre doesn’t seem to have set a date), in the New Year.
The theatre is running an online story (on Zoom) for under-sevens, A Kidnapped Father Christmas (tickets £5 per device).
Things are much the same in Oldham, where the Coliseum eventually abandoned its Christmas plans after scrapping its famous pantomime, then being forced to scrap its stand-in production of A Christmas Carol, before taking things online with Panto Digital Storytelling. The theatre also has a new short “advent” play online each day. See here
HOME Manchester made plans to take its Christmas offerings online in the event of a continuing tier three restriction for Greater Manchester, and this is now taking place. Find the details here
Theatr Clwyd’s ambitious plan to stage a special Christmas show, Once Upon a Christmas, which would have no live actors and would be seen by only one household at a time, were scuppered by the most recent Welsh restrictions. Though the show continues as planned until December 27, performances after that date have been cancelled.
Opera North’s equally ambitious Christmas production continues – namely a streamed production of a live performance at Leeds Town Hall of Beethoven’s Fidelio. Tickets are £15 here (you need to open an Opera North account, which offers further access to other on-demand performances).
Storyhouse in Chester is fortunate (if that’s the right word) to be in a tier two area like Liverpool, so performances of (of course) A Christmas Carol are continuing on stage daily, extended until January 17. Check our review here. The show is also available online on December 20, 24 and 28. Full details here