Birmingham’s only Christmas show for 2020 revealed

Hundreds of theatre lovers ‘shall go to the ball’ this December if the Crescent Theatre in Birmingham gets its way.

Rehearsals are underway for an 18th century-themed production of Cinderella which directors plan to stage in December.

After months of closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, bosses at the Crescent Theatre in the Westside entertainment area of Birmingham have come up with a plan to perform safely, keeping audience numbers limited to comply with safety guidelines.

Current thinking is that the production could be the only Christmas show in the city this year with the theatre’s usual 300-seat capacity reduced to 120.

The show’s director, Dewi Johnson, says he chose an 18th century-style production because the period’s extravagant costumes lend themselves perfectly to social distancing.

Johnson, who trained with the Crescent Youth Theatre before becoming a director, said: “When you go to the theatre you don’t want to be reminded of coronavirus and social distancing. But social distancing was inherent in the 1800s so it’s a really good way to do it naturally.

“The only scene we’ve got to be really careful about is the ball, but we think we’ve come up with an inventive way around it. It won’t be a pantomime but it will be a colourful, inspired family show.”
Johnson said the support from the theatre’s community to stage the show had been ‘phenomenal’.

“It’s been a rough year but the amount of help we’ve had offered for this has been phenomenal and heart-warming.

“It’s looking like we’ll be the only Christmas show in the city but we’re determined to make it work. People are desperate to get back and, as cliched as it sounds, we feel like the show must go on.”

Crescent chairman Andrew Lowrie said the theatre, which employs 30 staff, had been like the ‘Mary Celeste’ during lockdown.

“It was so horrible I was almost in tears,” he said. “One day we had a vibrant theatre and then, for the next ten weeks, there was only a manager there. It was like the Mary Celeste.

“In the end we decided not to waste time so we transformed the building, changed the colour scheme and built a new website.

“The decision to reopen was very difficult but we don’t want to be beaten by this. We’ve got great facilities and our own wardrobe department so we’re very self-sufficient and determined to make sure this is done right in terms of social distancing.

“I really felt that this year we needed a fresh approach so we brought Dewi in because he’s very inspirational and good at bringing people with him.”

Johnson added: “We know that we could rehearse for weeks and end up not being able to put the show on due to the pandemic. But everyone’s together on this and we’d much rather have a go than sit back and do nothing.”

Mike Olley, general manager of Westside BID, said: “What a marvellous plan by the Crescent to lift everyone’s mood for Christmas. I really hope the slipper fits in terms of safety restrictions because the show must go on!”

Cinderella will (hopefully) take place at the Crescent Theatre in Sheepcote Street from 1 to 12 December.

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