The pantomime industry is ‘just baffled’ after the Health Minister said the seasonal shows can go ahead this year – but children shouldn’t attend.
Speaking this morning, Stephen Donnelly said Cabinet would tomorrow consider new measures to reduce social activities for children.
It comes after NPHET last week recommended children avoid certain seasonal and community events in the run-up to Christmas in a bid to reduce COVID case numbers.
Minister Donnelly said commercial pantomime shows would be able to take to the stage, but Government would advise parents against bringing their children.
Public health officials have also advised against indoor play dates, birthday parties or sleepovers – but the Health Minister said taking children to see Santa is OK.
On Lunchtime Live this morning, pantomime producer Alan Hughes said the advice had left him “lost for words”.
“It sounds like an absolute panto,” he said. “You couldn’t write it – you really couldn’t.
“I walked into rehearsals this morning, there are 30 cast, crew and dancers here and they all just looked at me and went, well what’s happening? I just said, I don’t know.
“What I heard this morning … I am just baffled. The only word is baffled.”
'Lost for words'
Mr Hughes is due to take his Aladdin Panto to the stage at the National Stadium in two weeks’ time.
“We only sold 60% occupancy in case it went back to what it was and in case further restrictions came in,” he said.
“It is a massive venue. We have fabulous, state-of-the-art ventilation. You can social distance, you have to have your COVID cert coming in, you have to wear your mask going to bathrooms or going to shop and yet he is saying that is not safe but go to Santa’s Grotto where there might be hundreds of kids all gathered in to see Santa – that is safe.
“I am just lost for words.”
He said the situation has left parents extremely confused with many ringing up the box office looking for public health advice.
“I have parents phoning our box office this morning asking, if we go to the panto but then not go to anything else that week, is that OK?” he said.
“We can restrict our movements on other things but we just would love to go to the Panto. If we cancel a few other things that week, would the Government or NPHET think that is OK?”
Mr Hughes said he has already invested €300,000 in this year’s panto with his husband Karl Broderick.
“We are ploughing ahead,” he said. “We are asking people to still book.
“It is Aladdin, it is amazing, it is the best one we have done and look, if we are closed down, of course you will get your refund.”
Minister Donnelly has said the Government will offer supports to any events affected by the public health advice.
Mr Hughes said every penny will be needed.