Horsham's Capitol ready to reopen for Christmas

Horsham’s Capitol is embracing its Christmas season with confidence after comfortably navigating the latest lockdown.

Wednesday, 2nd December 2020, 11:00 am
The Capitol's Christmas tree

Its first shows back are Paul Sinha: Hazy Little Thing Called Love (Friday, December 4, 7pm) and A Night at The Musicals with Oliver Tompsett (Saturday, December 5, 7.30pm).

Further into December, the big Christmas shows will be A Christmas Carol (December 12-29) and Santa’s New Sleigh (December 12-24) – and tickets are selling well.

The venue goes into December in as good a position as it possibly could – for all the circumstances, says operations manager Matthew Effemey.

left to right: Dan Barnes - Tech Supervisor, Emma Locke - Front of House Manager, Cat Fuller – Box Office Supervisor, Matthew Effemey – Operations Manager, Tracey Grubb – Marketing Officer and David Fuller, Assistant Front of House Manager.

“We are really excited to be reopening. It’s really good news. We are just glad to be back.”

Clearly there could be further lockdowns ahead, he concedes: “But we have got through the latest one. It has been fine. We have furloughed some of our staff, and they come off furlough for the reopening.

“We were just taking time and making sure that all the November shows that had to be cancelled were rebooked and we were giving people refunds straight away for the films and also we were just making sure that we were still marketing our Christmas shows. And it has been successful. They have really picked up.”

The two big shows will go together well: “It is perfect for the family, and you will get the older generation coming along to A Christmas Carol and also a few bits and pieces. And we have started to think about next year as well.

“At the moment with the news of the vaccines, we are really hedging our bets for spring into summer to be fully operational again.

“That’s something we had prepared for for a long time. We have already moved our January, February, March shows to later in the year. A lot of them now will be October time, autumn time. Sadly, a lot of them had to go because a lot of 2021 had already been programmed. Theatres tend to programme shows a year in advance.

“But we have managed to come up with some really nice socially-distanced shows for January, February and March. We didn’t want to be letting customers down in those months and calling them up a week before and telling them their show has been cancelled.

“So we moved the shows and we have got some smaller shows in instead. We wanted to be proactive rather than reactive.”

And the cultural recovery fund and the extension of the furlough scheme have helped in that respect: “It has really helped us with securing our long-term future. That’s what this is all about.

“Now there is the vaccine news, it is possible to think that we might have a fully-functioning Capitol by May if I were a betting man… which I am not!

“But May is what the industry is thinking. There is a big London body called SOLT (Society of London Theatre) and they are preparing for May, and we are hedging our bets with them. They are in talks with the government.”

So certainly until then, it will be social distancing at the venue. The numbers they can accommodate depend on the patterns of booking. If a hundred people booked individual seats, that would be capacity reached.

“But most people come in pairs or fours, and if that happens then we can get between 120 and 140 in the main house.

“That’s about 30 per cent of capacity. If we had pushed the boundaries we could have gone for more than 50 per cent and then we really would have been in trouble.

“The new regulations are that you cannot exceed 50 per cent – and there are a lot of venues that had already sold their Christmas shows at more than 50 per cent.

“For us, erring on the side of caution was absolutely the right thing to do.”

Tickets from the venue.