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40k seats sold... but Covid-19 could sink Belfast's Grand Opera House Christmas pantomime

Fears lockdown delays to Opera House refurb to hit Goldilocks

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Grand Opera House

Grand Opera House

Grand Opera House

The Covid-19 crisis could hit Belfast's biggest annual Christmas pantomime.

But management at the Grand Opera House are determined to ensure that the show will go on.

Year-long work on a massive restoration and refurbishment of the historic theatre - the first for 40 years - has had to be curtailed for more than a month because of the virus shutdown.

GOH bosses admit they do not know whether the delay will impact on the planned opening date - marking the venue's 125th anniversary.

And they also added that it is too soon to say when they will know.

Scores have already booked seats for the city's longest-running panto - Goldilocks and the Three Bears this year - which once again is due to star the Guinness Book of World Records holder of the most Panto performances, comedian John Linehan aka May McFettridge.

John said recently: "I can only hope and pray the Opera House will be up and running for Christmas - 35,000 to 40,000 seats have been sold already.

"I think if the auditorium was ready it would be a great thing, but I'm sure they'll pull out all the stops and, please God, we go back to normality," he says.

But a GOH statement said: "The contractors have stopped work in line with the Government's guidance and it is too early to know the impact the delay will have."

And asked when the impact of the work stoppage would be known, a spokeswoman added:"It's too early to know that yet."

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May McFettridge in Goldilocks

May McFettridge in Goldilocks

May McFettridge in Goldilocks

Principal contractors Tracey Brothers Ltd have already been involved in restoration work at Parliament Buildings in Stormont, Crumlin Road Gaol and Russell Hall at Queen's University, among others.

After the 11-month closure the GOH plan was to reopen with the annual panto in time to mark the 125th year since the building was completed - and that remains the case.

But the spokeswoman also added: "We do not know how long the current situation will last and so at present we cannot fully assess the impact of the delay on our restoration plans or on our programme.

"We will continue to follow the Government's guidance and make any necessary changes to our plans as soon as the situation becomes clearer."

Nonetheless the theatre is continuing to take bookings despite the lockdown, even if it has to consider social distancing for future performances.

Meanwhile, the Waterfront Hall has announced its panto of Cinderella is to begin in late November.

Belfast Telegraph