Sidmouth panto performance halted by Fortfield blaze

Cast re-schedule cancelled sell-out show after Fortfield Hotel fire shuts Manor Pavilion Theatre

FOR Liz Hammond, director of Sidmouth’s pantomime at the Manor Pavilion Theatre, Thursday’s fire meant the cancellation of that night’s sell-out performance and the loss of around �2,000 in ticket sales.

The sell-out show, Dick Whittington and His Cat, performed by members of Sidmouth Amateur Dramatic Society, was re-scheduled for early on Sunday evening, but it meant Liz and theatre manager Graham Whitlock had to spend Thursday evening calling up cast members and ticket holders to explain the theatre had been shut because of the fire.

“They (fire chiefs) said it was not safe as the fire was not out,” said Graham, while Liz added: “I was coming back from Honiton and a fire engine and police passed me. At first I thought it was the Manor Pavilion as I could see the flames.

“I have a list of the cast, some of whom live in Honiton and got stopped by the police. We are manning both phones at the theatre.”

She said one couple who had tickets for the night were on a trip from Australia.

“I spoke to the cast and asked them if they would do another day. I was so worried it was going to be snow that stopped the pantomime as we had that during rehearsals and so many couldn’t get here.”

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This is the first panto Liz has directed for SADS.

She said: “I wanted it to be perfect and what happens? There is a fire and we have to cancel.”

However, the decision to re-schedule for Sunday was appreciated by the audience - 85 percent of whom had bought tickets for the fated Thursday performance.

Liz said: “It went very well and we picked up some more people too. It was really worth doing. The audience was lovely and really appreciated it.”