Christmas comes but once a year...
…But if it wasn’t for the income from pantos and other Christmas shows, a lot of theatres—not only in the NE but nationally—would suffer financially.
In the region, there were basically three kinds of panto and other Christmas shows on offer over the 2018 Christmas period: in-house productions, brought-in productions and touring productions.
The really large-scale productions are almost all bought in from companies such as Qdos (the producers of the Newcastle Theatre Royal show) which can offset costs by extending productions' lives over many years by reviving them in different venues for years after the first showing. Another such, although not working with as many theatres, is UK Productions which is responsible for Sunderland Empire’s shows. And there are others which are smaller still, perhaps only servicing less than half a dozen theatres.
The NE theatres which produced their own pantos in 2018 are The Dovecot in Amble (NTC's new home), The Maltings in Berwick, the Gala in Durham, South Shields’ Customs House, the Empire in Consett, the Georgian Theatre Royal in Richmond and Harrogate Theatre. Then there are companies which produce their own pantos and find a venue in which to present them; most notable here are the show at Gateshead International Stadium and Mendes Productions’ show which this year was at Simonside Community Centre in Westerhope, Newcastle, but which next year will be at The Exchange in North Shields, its new home.
Then there are the touring pantos, which include The Suggestibles’ Impro Pantso, an improvised at every performance show which has been going for some years now, and Sleeping Beauty by Barking Up the Wrong Tree Theatre which played at a number of North Yorkshire venues this year.
Most of the mid- to large-scale theatres present their own non-panto Christmas shows (Northern Stage, Live Theatre and Alphabetti, for example) and these tend to run for most of December and even into January. Others buy in shows, panto or otherwise, even just for one night in some cases.
Most children’s shows are either produced (or commissioned) in-house (Customs House, Gala, Northern Stage) or are touring shows such as Hearthside Tales’ The Snow Bear or NTC’s The Little Maid Who Danced to Every Mood.
You want statistics? 10 theatres produced their own pantos, 12 bought them in; 6 produced their own Christmas shows, 3 bought them in; 3 produced or commissioned their own children’s show, 4 bought them in.
Nice Swan Theatre, which had been producing pantos in Whickham, Gateshead, for some years, opened their new specially created Pantodrome in Times Square in Newcastle last year, but the show as so beset with problems, mainly financial, that the company has now closed.