Regis Centre: panto hangs in balance but future looks secure
Bognor’s Regis Centre staff are hoping they might be able to reopen on October 1 or some time during the month of October.
They are also hoping their pantomime Peter Pan might be able to go ahead – though theatre manager Hazel Latus admits considerable uncertainty remains.
In the meantime, they are hoping to open the café towards the end of this month.
The venue cancelled its entire spring season; it has now cancelled events through until the end of August.
Now they are wanting clarity on what needs to happen next: “We need to have a cut-off for what we can actually do. We just don’t know. Until we get the green light to open, there is nothing we can do.
“But I always feel hopeful. I would hate not to. I don’t want it to be all doom and gloom. We have always got hope. We know we can make it work. We have just got to wait to see how we can make it work. And we know that we are going to have to be flexible. That’s going to have to be the new way of working.”
There is certainly plenty of willingness all around them: “Andy Beaumont, who did our summer show, said he would come with the band for absolutely free. We were going to do a truncated summer season, never thinking that this would go on for so long. But he wants to support us.
“But really we just don’t know the rules. I don’t feel very clear about what you can and cannot do. But what we are trying to do is put out signs on the floor for people to keep their distance so that we can be ready. My main concern is just to get up and running. It is not as easy as it sounds, but we are here to make it work.”
And if it can’t work this year, then at least the consolation is that the venue has already got a wealth of bookings for next year lined up.
And an even bigger consolation is the fact that the venue is pretty secure financially: “If we can’t open until January 2021 we would be fine. The district council have been very supportive to us. Arun District have been fabulous.”
The venue has also been helped also by people donating the cost of tickets they had already bought for shows which have been cancelled ie not asking for refunds.
“Without all that, we would not have survived. But financially we are OK even though we were very limited on our finances because we had already spent a fortune on repairs. We like to think we have improved the place and brought it up to scratch in so many ways, but there is still a hell of a lot to do on it and a lot to spend. But financially we are alright.”
However the panto remains a worry. It is not remotely clear whether it is going to be possible, but here again, as Hazel says, flexibility will be key.
Peter Pan would involve flying which brings an extra expense which means full houses would be needed… impossible if social distancing in the auditorium applies.
“I don’t think with restricted seating the panto would cover itself.”
But if it comes to it, Hazel would be prepared to look at alternatives, perhaps a Christmas show rather than a pantomime – “something that rather than coming in and playing for five weeks just plays a couple of days here and a couple of days there.
“We are just going to have to see what we can do.”
In the meantime, Hazel is looking at the possibility of outdoor events, which are now permitted.