A host of big-name soap stars are sweating on the Government allowing the curtain to go up on Christmas pantos with several fearing they’ll lose their homes.
Katie McGlynn, Kym Marsh and Nigel Havers are among the stars that beefed up their pay cheques last year by treading the boards over the festive season.
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But their six-figure salaries are now at risk as the nation’s biggest panto producer Qdos has revealed it is in talks with theatres about the viability of this year’s productions.
Last year the firm laid on 31 shows across Britain and in 2019 19 ex-Coronation Street stars trod the boards in panto.
Big-name stars such as Ryan Thomas – Coronation Street’s Jason Grimshaw – can command six-figure pay packets.
And for some, it accounts for most of their yearly salary.
Some of the biggest earners from the world of soap are BBC stars such as Phil Mitchell actor, Steve McFadden.
As far back as 2011, the 61-year-old was reportedly earning £200,000 to play the villain in panto.
Adam Woodyatt, better known as Ian Beale, has been on the panto circuit for years and reportedly earns around £130,000 a production.
A showbiz agent told us: “There are a lot of worried big-name soap stars. Quite a few rely on the panto cheque to pay the mortgage because it accounts for most of their yearly work.
“Many don’t do much else because they haven’t needed to but with Qdos about to pull the plug, they are wondering where the cash will come from this year.
“The Government needs to act to get the shows on. I’ve been speaking to some very worried people. There isn’t much acting work about so some are wondering where the cash will come from.
“I’ve had people talking about turning to taxi work or delivering pizzas to try and make ends meet. There is talk that people will lose their houses next year if the money doesn’t start coming in.”
This week it was revealed that ministers are aiming to have full audiences back in theatres in time for the pantomime season to give city and town centres a pre-Christmas boost.
No10 has ordered officials in the Culture Department to make the December target a priority to save the theatre industry.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has named it Operation Sleeping Beauty.
Ministers view getting a pantomime season in this year as crucial as it would attract people to restaurants and bars.
But last month Qdos Pantomimes revealed they were taking action having reached the deadline set by theatres for the Government to agree a date for reopening without social distancing.
The statement read: “Based on the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s reiteration last week that the Government won’t be providing further guidance on theatres operating without social distancing until November at the earliest, we are left with no choice but to begin the consultation process with our partner theatres about the viability of each show. This is a complex process and will take several weeks to complete.”
The statement concludes: “We are not immediately announcing the postponement of all shows. Plans will be announced by individual theatres and communicated to ticket holders in due course.”
Our source added: “It’s not looking good for panto this year at all. All the people I’ve spoken to have resigned themselves to losing the cash.”
Already more than 36 pantos across the UK have been affected by the Covid pandemic with many postponed until 2021.
Possible options being discussed by theatres across the country include rescheduling shows for Christmas 2021/22 with some considering the viability of running their shows as Easter pantomimes.