Hopes Omicron won't bring the curtain down at Wirral's Gladstone Theatre saved from Covid closure

Live entertainment has taken a big hit during the coronavirus pandemic and so I was delighted to learn that a closure-threatened theatre I visited last Christmas has been saved by its audience.

Walking into Wirral's Gladstone Theatre 12 months ago was a dispiriting activity.

The auditorium should have been full of smiles and laughter with people enjoying the annual pantomime. Instead, row upon row of empty seats faced a dark, empty stage.

The playhouse in Port Sunlight had had a run of bad luck - forced to close during lockdown, rejected for emergency government funding and then becoming the victim of vandalism.

Founded in 1888, the building had survived two world wars, yet now the place was in a sorry state.

It was its devoted audience members who came to its rescue.

With just months to survive, supporters pledged money to see the theatre through it's darkest days.

A crowdfunder topped £30,000.

It was enough to get the Gladstone into a position where it could start putting on performances once more.

But the big earner is the panto. Ticket sales fund the theatre for the following year.

And the show really does go on for last year's mothballed performance.

Jack and the Beanstalk has been filling the place since its opening night.

Actors are relieved to finally be able to get into character, albeit one year later than billed.

The elephant in the room is Omicron.

The theatre has already had to introduce face-masks for audience members.

Meanwhile, the cast and crew are busy getting tested daily.

They are all hoping the measures will be enough to make the Gladstone immune to any further restrictions and prevent yet another closure of this historic theatre.

Jessica Jones from Fazakerly is making her debut for producers Dreamworld Entertainments this year.

She's determined everyone will get the chance to see the panto through to the end of its run on New Year's Eve.

Theatre bosses say they would be heartbroken if they had to close again.

They are promising to do everything in their power to prevent the curtain going down early this year.