Yarmouth panto blow

A Christmas pantomime may have to be cancelled after a Yarmouth theatre was forced to close because of safety fears.Concerns over the safety of the tower roof and one wall in the former church meant that St George's Theatre had to close without warning on Saturday morning.

A Christmas pantomime may have to be cancelled after a Yarmouth theatre was forced to close because of safety fears.

Concerns over the safety of the tower roof and one wall in the former church meant that St George's Theatre had to close without warning on Saturday morning. Rehearsals over the weekend were cancelled and the box office was shut.

Engineers will inspect the former church on King Street today before deciding whether it can reopen or must stay shut while repairs are carried out. If the problems prove serious, the 300-seat theatre could stay shut for weeks or even months. The closure would also jeopardise the future of the town's operatic and dramatic society, which at 105 years old is one of the oldest in the country. Its production of Sleeping Beauty is due to begin a three-week run on Saturday - and the bad news came just the day after the start of a major publicity drive.

The building is owned by the borough council, whose architects spotted a problem during repair work late last week.

David McDermott, chairman of the trust that runs the theatre, said: “On Monday we should hear whether it is as bad as it is made out to be. If it is, then we will have to close temporarily. If it is as dangerous as they say it is it could be closed for quite a long time.”

Forty people are involved in panto production, which will cost around £15,000 to stage. Normally the pantomime is one of Great Yarmouth Operatic and Dramatic Society's biggest moneyspinners.

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Chairman Graham Turner said: “We have spent thousands of pounds, we have been rehearsing since September, and we may not be able to go ahead.”

John Hemsworth, head of environment and health at the borough council, said: “The architects couldn't be confident there wasn't a risk to people that were in the building. We advised them it would be a good idea to close the building over the weekend. It is only for a couple of days, we hope.”