'Spectacularly bad' pantomime prompts refunds for entire audience

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Zamira Rahim

An arts centre that put on a "terrible" pantomime has offered refunds to all 651 people who bought tickets to see the play after some audience members walked out mid-performance.

Theatre company Ooh Arr Productions put on the play at the Neeld Community and Arts Centre in Chippenham, Wiltshire.

Promotion for the pantomime claimed it would have a "sparkling set and glittering costumes to bring some festive joy" and it ran for three performances between 27 and 29 December 2018. But its reception was disastrous, with audience members taking to social media to criticise the meagre cast, lack of costumes and inadequate staging.

"It was awful," Natalie Uff wrote on the venue's Facebook page. "There were only three people, no scenery, they couldn't sing or dance."

"At one point they were talking to voices in the wings as they ran out of people."

The arts centre has taken the unprecedented step of publishing an apology on its Facebook page.

"This was not the standard of show the Neeld is used to presenting," the venue said in its statement. "We had been assured by the theatre production company there would be a cast of six professional actors with industry standard staging.

"The images provided by the company for promotional purposes, which we posted on our social media, did not reflect the show they brought to us."

Customers applauded the arts centre's decision to refund the cost of tickets, with the total sum thought to be around £4,500.

"Well done Neeld Hall," wrote Tereza Cleverley. She described the pantomime as "spectacularly bad."

"It felt as if two of the cast members had been pulled in at the last minute and it was their first live show."

A review of the performance on Oooh Arrr's own social media says:  "People walked out."

"My kids were bored and I thankfully found the bar. We must've got the off-season cast! Won't be paying for that ever again."

"We are currently investigating this matter and due to legal reasons we are unable to comment further," a spokesperson for the production company said. 

Article originally appeared in The Independent