14th May 2021

In May 2020, when Tron Theatre Company postponed their beloved pantomime, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the company did not envisage being in the same position in 2021. Almost a full year later, the theatre’s CEO Sam Gough has had to make the difficult call to postpone again – moving the production, which will be written by Johnny McKnight, to the theatre’s Autumn-Winter 2022 season.

In non-Covid times, planning and contracting for the large-scale production would be fully underway by this point in the year.  Ordinarily, our panto breaks even on the proviso that is sells in excess of 90% of tickets across over 60 performances, which it does and does not require any subsidy. Despite positive moves to ease restrictions and the re-opening of other sectors, theatres remain in an impossible position because of social distancing rules and the impact these have on venue capacity and in turn, income-generating abilities.

The Tron, as a mid-scale venue with a 230-seat capacity, would, even in Level 0, be unable to stage financially viable productions. With two metre social distancing restrictions in place, the auditorium capacity is between ten and sixteen, with a maximum of five people on stage – severely compromising the quality of the audience experience. Even with a reduction to one metre that number grows to only sixty. With no clear indication from the government as to how long Level 0 might last, or indeed what restrictions might remain in place beyond this period, staging a full-scale version of the pantomime is simply too high a risk for the organisation.

The Tron Theatre Box Office team will be working to contact all customers who hold tickets for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz with a view to issuing refunds. There will also be alternative options for customers including theatre credit or to donate the price of their ticket back to the theatre.

Executive Director & Joint Chief Executive Sam Gough said of the postponement:

‘This isn’t a decision we’ve taken lightly but our reliance on ticket income to deliver the all-singing, all-dancing, high-concept pantomimes the Tron audiences know and love, make it impossible for us to commit to staging Johnny’s version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz this year. The audience experience when we have to factor in any kind of social distancing restrictions would be terrible and the financials simply don’t stack up. It would be irresponsible of us to proceed when there is still uncertainty about when we might be able to re-open at full-capacity. The risks, financial and experiential, are just too high.’

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Johnny McKnight was originally programmed as part of the Tron Theatre’s Autumn-Winter 2020 season.  It was rescheduled to Autumn-Winter 2021 as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.