THE LOCAL panto season has been devastated by Covid-19 as the virus continues to cause the cancellation of shows across the Keighley area.

Keighley Musical Theatre Company (KMTC) and Glusburn Youth Theatre have followed professional venues like Bradford Alhambra in scrapping their winter pantomimes.

Sutton’s Green Hut Theatre Company have postponed until next spring, Oakworth Methodist Church is yet to decide whether to go ahead next February, and Harden Players are pessimistic about the chances of performing in February.

The panto massacre follows decisions by KMTC, Keighley Playhouse and Keighley Youth Theatre to cancel all 2020 shows following the initial lockdown in spring.

Groups wishing to perform on stage face challenges such as health and safety at rehearsals, ever-changing government guidelines, and social-distancing rules that cut audience sizes to about one-sixth the usual number.

The biggest local casualty so far is KMTC’s musical, Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which had attracted huge interest from both audiences and performers.

KMTC chairman Louise Hindle-Barton said: “Coronavirus restrictions made productions impossible, with the added problem that Victoria Hall is closed for an indefinite period.

“We have always been proud that we only missed presenting shows during the war years and in 1957 when the Hippodrome Theatre was closed and we had to move to the Ritz Cinema.

“Only one pantomime has been missed when the company lost its home and moved to the Victoria Hall in 1974.

“Although we hope to present Joseph in the future, we are looking forward to producing another spectacular show in October 2021.”

Keighley Playhouse has cancelled all productions until at least December, and has selected seven plays for a full season when they can begin operating normally in line with government regulations.

Acting chairman Mike Boothroyd said: “Productions under social distancing requirements are impractical due to the physical constraints of the building and also by financial considerations.

“The forced closure has allowed us to redevelop many backstage facilities including a new kitchen area, additional dressing room facilities and a technical workshop.”

The Green Hut have already cancelled this year’s VE Day show and September play, and will decide later this year whether they can safely prepare for their annual panto next spring.

Oakworth Methodist Church will decide in October whether it can stage its pantomime Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves on February 13-20.

Panto supremo David Howarth said: “Our aim is to go ahead subject to Government restrictions being eased sufficiently to allow rehearsals from November and reasonable numbers in the audiences.”

After cancelling its July and October shows, Keighley Youth Theatre (KYDZ) is rehearsing weekly on Zoom and plans to film its next plays in case the planned March 2021 stage version cannot go ahead.

Glusburn Youth Theatre recently cancelled its February 21 panto for the safety and well-being of its cast, crew, volunteers and supporters.

The committee said: “This decision was not taken lightly and we are all upset about it. We hope if the restrictions are lifted enough we could plan something for us to do in February.

Harden Players said no decision had yet been made on its family panto, but added: “Due to the size of our venue and rehearsal space it seems very unluckily that we will be able to put on a panto at the usual time. We will not all meet up until it is 100% safe to do so.”