The Pitlochry Festival Theatre is preparing to welcome visitors to it’s Magic of Christmas experience which has been re-imagined to consider lockdown restrictions.
Originally, the performance was going to be a ‘live experience’, however, with the COVID restrictions in place across Highland Perthshire, this is no longer possible.
‘In a way, it’s a bit like going to the Harry Potter experience’, explained Elizabeth Newman, Artistic Director at Pitlochry Festival Theatre (PFT).
Instead, the performance is going to be recorded by filmmaker Russell Beard, and now, Perth and Kinross, ticket holders will get to visit the set and explore behind the scene of the Magic of Christmas.
Elizabeth Newman said: “You get to watch it on film, at home, in the warm, after you get to have a good tramp around the garden.”
Although, people in Pitlochry’s community have expressed their concern about people from outside the Perth and Kinross area visiting the experience.
Under the level 3 restrictions enforced by the Scottish Government, people are not allowed to enter or leave tier 3 and above areas.
This measurement would restrict people from outside Perth and Kinross, from lower-tiered places such as Inverness or higher tired such as Edinburgh, to visit for the experience.
But, for people in these area’s the theatre is reaching out to them with an alternative, these ticket holders will be given a link to the film and ‘The Magic of Christmas Build-Your-Own Theatre digital book to have Christmas theatre fun at home.’
Elizabeth Newman explained: “We’re making sure that visitors understand that if their out-width Perth and Kinross there’s another offer for them, so as well as receiving the film they receive a build your own theatre kit.
“So [it’s] a different offer to the people who live in Perth and Kinross where they can build the experience at home to make sure they can still do something physical.
“And they can build it in their garden or in their living room, dependant on the weather, so they are receiving something else as well so they can have an adventure too.”
In order to make sure that people know they cannot come into the area, the theatre is phoning ticketholders from outside Perth and Kinross to tell them what’s offered to them instead.
Elizabeth Newman added: “But we are making it really clear to them, through calling them, that obviously they live out width our region so therefore coming to Perth and Kinross isn’t what anybody is looking for.
“But actually, these conversations happen before people arrive, which is the key thing for people to know which is that everyone is contacted beforehand if they bought tickets outside of our region.
“And we have that conversation so that people, wouldn’t, shouldn’t, be arriving at the site and because then their ticket would then receive the other offer, which is the build your own theatre guide and film.”
For Elizabeth Newman, it’s important to keep up the spirits of people across Highland Perthshire with the recorded performance and Christmas experience.
“That’s what we’ve been so keen to make sure can happen for people, is that they can still come and do something as well.
“And they can be outdoors, and have an adventure, and see the garden in all of its glory, and be on that film set and really get a Christmassy feel as they walk around, with the actors singing.”, said Elizabeth Newman.
Thinking about why the Christmas spirit is so important, she said: “I think Christmas is a time of being thankful and also bringing families together. And I think more than ever that’s what we want to be doing.”
“We want to be looking to the future, we want to be with the people we love, we haven’t been able to be with them enough this year, and I think people are longing for Christmas to arrive.
“Ultimately, we launched a series called Light, Hope, Joy so we sort of began our conversation about Christmas in March really because those are the sort of words you would describe when you’re talking about Christmas.
“For us, it’s really important that we find a way to offer people a chance to have a moment where they are feeling that magic of Christmas.”
But to allow people this opportunity, the theatre has to make sure that the venue is safe before anyone can come in.
So, Elizabeth Newman explained: “We’ve done a lot of preparations, and we’ve also had the support of trading standards and environmental health and legal at Perth and Kinross Council.
“Who’ve been round to the site and are really happy with the safety guidelines that have been put in place for the audience to experience it.
“That means you are only ever in a small group; we are providing antibacterial wipes at various different points, but the key thing is that it’s entirely outdoors and socially distanced.
“It’s basically if you were to go and take a walk around a park, it’s as safe as that, which for us was really important to make sure that no one was at risk.”
The story follows elves, Harry and Larry, who have lost the North Star after Harry lost it in a game of Football with Prancer, Dancer and Vixen.
Santa needs the North Star to navigate the world to deliver presents to the world’s children, so they pair need the help of Father Christmas and Mrs Claus.
Throughout their journey, the team travel through the magical forest, Lapland and even space.
Elizabeth Newman added: “I think what’s brilliant about people living in Scotland is everyone really wants their neighbours, and their friends and their family to be safe.
“For me personally, and from the people I know, and the people I work with and the audiences I’ve spoken to, people are very clear that in order to get through this we do all need to support the government and guidelines and restrictions they’ve put in place.”