Birmingham Hippodrome’s 2020/21 pantomime production of Goldilocks And The Three Bears, starring Jason Donovan, has been cancelled. The theatre has also announced that it's extending its closure period until February 2021.

The news comes as a bitter blow both to the theatre and the Midlands’ panto-loving audience.

The announcement was made by Qdos Entertainment, the company behind the show, and follows months of speculation surrounding the viability of pantomimes during the coronavirus crisis.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden last month admitted that Covid-19 posed a major threat to the UK’s 2020/21 pantos.

Speaking the day after the government announced a £1.57billion support package for the cultural sector, Mr Dowden told BBC Breakfast: “I would love to be able to announce that pantos can return, but I have to say it will be quite challenging to be able to get to that point.

“Because if you think about a panto - and we all love going to the panto for the joy of it, but it also supports local theatres - you’ve got granny through to grandchild all packed in together. You know how kids are encouraged to shout and scream at panto season, there’s lots of sort of interaction.”

Commenting on the news, Director & CEO of Birmingham Hippodrome, Fiona Allan, said: “After much discussion and heartache, we are saddened to announce that Birmingham Hippodrome will not be staging live theatre productions in our main auditorium until 1 Feb 2021 at the earliest.

“We have spoken at length with both Qdos Entertainment and Birmingham Royal Ballet, exploring various scenarios for this year’s pantomime and the annual performances of The Nutcracker. However, it is still not financially viable to host full-scale productions on our stage while social distancing remains in place.

“We are delighted to confirm that both Jason Donovan and Matt Slack will still be joining the cast of Goldilocks And The Three Bears for its rescheduled dates over Christmas in 2021.

“The Birmingham Hippodrome sales team will be contacting all ticket holders for both pantomime and The Nutcracker, along with other affected productions, over the coming days.

“Whilst we continue to be unable to reopen our main auditorium for live performances, we are actively exploring other innovative and creative ways in which we can engage with our audiences and the people of the West Midlands during this time.”