Thousands of viewers from as par as New Zealand tune in to Customs House panto streamed online
A major South Tyneside arts venue has hailed the success of its Christmas panto – despite its cast playing to an empty house.
Bosses at South Shields’ Customs House say many thousands of people have tuned in amid coronavirus restrictions – by watching the production over the internet.
Fearing the pandemic may disrupt their annual festive show, they recorded a special version before November’s lockdown started.
It meant they caught on camera and in high definition a performance, with special added features, of Arbuthnot & Dame Bella’s Christmas Adventure.
They estimate it has been viewed by tens of thousands of schoolchildren, individuals and families – and it can be streamed and watched repeatedly until New Year’s Eve for £15.
Executive director Ray Spencer MBE said he did not expect it to make money once costs were removed, but he believes it has boosted his team and the community.
He said: “It will be cost neutral, but the important thing is that we have been able to put on a panto.
“Many thousands of people have watched it and a bonus has been that children who may not normally have come to The Customs House to see it, have watched it at school.
“Thirty-five schools have tuned in to it, which means thousands of youngsters have seen it, and families are also watching it at home.
“We been contacted by ex-pats in New Zealand, China and the US, saying how thrilled they are to have been able to see the performance.
“While we will not make money from it, it will pay for the actors and the creatives who were involved, and it keeps us in the public eye.
“The local community have been tremendous in their support of us this year, and I’m thankful for that.”
Mr Spencer said it was too early to say when in 2021 the venue was likely to reopen to the public.
It had hoped to stage the panto with a limited, socially distanced audience, but that was scuppered when South Tyneside remained under Tier 3 Covid restrictions.
He confirmed The Customs House was being given support from the government’s Culture Recovery Fund until March, which meant its financial position was stable.
The panto, which can also be purchased as a DVD, can be accessed via www.customshouse.co.uk.