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Pop-up panto producer goes bust owing thousands

Scene from Jack and the Beanstalk at Pantodrome, Newcastle-upon-Tyne Scene from Jack and the Beanstalk at Pantodrome, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, in 2017
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Cast members and suppliers who worked on a pantomime in Newcastle are chasing tens of thousands of pounds in unpaid fees after the production company behind the show went bust.

Among those claiming to be owed money is temporary structure supplier Neptunus, which designed and built the 900-seat pop-up venue in the city’s Times Square that was home to NS Pantomimes’ production of Jack and the Beanstalk last Christmas.

Neptunus’ managing director April Trasler told The Stage the company was owed a “substantial amount of money, running into tens of thousands of pounds” after NS Pantomimes failed to pay the final instalment of its fee.

Trasler said NS Pantomimes had paid two out of the three agreed payments, but money for the final instalment, due before the build started late last year, never materialised.

“We had the option of taking down the facility as a result of this breach of contract but felt this would cause huge disappointment for the thousands of families who had already purchased tickets for the pantomime – and we didn’t wish for Neptunus to be seen as being responsible for ruining their Christmas entertainment,” she said.

Trasler stressed that all suppliers contracted by Neptunus to work on the project had been paid in full.

In a letter seen by The Stage sent to the cast on February 16, producer Jamie Owen Gray said that, with “deep regret”, NS Pantomimes, which launched in 2015, had ceased trading.

“Unfortunately the company has insufficient releasable assets and no funds with which to appoint an insolvency practitioner and thereby initiate a voluntary liquidation,” the letter said, adding that the company would now lie in limbo until struck off by Companies House or wound up by a creditor.

The production was beset by problems from the onset. Several performances were cancelled at the beginning of the run, which meant the show opened late.

Denise Welch had been due to star in the production. However, the actor claims her contract was terminated before performances began after she voiced concerns over the conditions in which they were rehearsing.

Welch said in a statement that the production was in “serious disarray” ahead of its opening, and that an Equity representative was brought in after producers did not provide the correct health and safety documents.

Equity has confirmed that it is now working on behalf of seven cast members who claim they are owed money after working on Jack and the Beanstalk. A spokesman from the union said it planned to pursue Gray for the actors’ money, which amounts to between one and two weeks’ pay each.

BECTU told The Stage that it was not involved on behalf of any of its members but urged anyone who has been affected to contact the union.

The Stage has also spoken to two other cast members who claim they are each owed £1,200 and £600 respectively for their work.

Daniel Mawston, who played Dame Patsy Trot, told The Stage he was owed two weeks’ wages of £1,200. He said he had received no communication or apology about the money he was owed in the three months since the show closed.

Stephen Sullivan, who played Fleshcreep, said he had been left “high and dry” as a result of not receiving £600 in wages.

“This must act as a warning to all wannabe producers and to all actors putting their faith in new companies. Be careful. This is not a game and we are not pawns,” he said.

NS Pantomimes could not be reached for comment.

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