We can still enjoy Cork's panto magic... oh yes we can!

The annual outing to the panto won’t go ahead this year — but that hasn’t stopped Cork City Council from paying homage to the theatre form, writes DEBORAH HICKEY
We can still enjoy Cork's panto magic... oh yes we can!

Sound and video designer Cormac O’Connor adjusting the scene of a miniature theatre set showing 'Little Red Riding Hood' in the shop window of the vacant bookstore Liam Ruiseal on Oliver Plunkett Street.

THE first experience many of us will have with theatre is being taken, as children, to see a pantomime.

Here in Cork, we have a long-standing tradition of packing out theatre spaces each festive season. Audiences delight in booing as the villain enters the stage and cheering on the heroes to their happy ending. This year, however, there is a new villain in town; Coronavirus.

With the pandemic forcing venues to remain closed this year, creatives on the Cork arts scene are initiating ways in which the magic of panto can be accessed safely.

Cork Opera House is offering a virtual Panto experience in the form of Nanny Nellie’s Panto Telly, running online from December 22 to 31.

Does this mean there will be no opportunity for Cork families to make the traditional trip to town to enjoy some Panto magic? Oh no it doesn’t!

Covid-19 may be the villain of the piece this year, but Cork City Council have assembled a group of heroes to ensure the spirit of Christmas and the tradition of panto continue to be enjoyed in the heart of the city.

In recent years, the council has treated Corkonians to spectacular Christmas events. The official switching on of the lights on Patrick Street annually brings thousands into the city to enjoy the festivities, while the GLOW Festival transforms Bishop Lucey Park into a magical wonderland throughout December.

These events have had to be reimagined this year to comply with public safety, but Cork is looking as bright and beautiful as ever.

The Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Joe Kavanagh, switched on the Christmas lights without a public event, Cork City Council has installed 45 trees throughout the city and the stage is now set to introduce Remagine GLOW.

Ruairí and Donnacha Harte at one of the windows in the Re-imagine GLOW Magical Windows Pantomime Trail created by Eventi Management.  Picture: Clare Keogh
Ruairí and Donnacha Harte at one of the windows in the Re-imagine GLOW Magical Windows Pantomime Trail created by Eventi Management.  Picture: Clare Keogh

 The project takes the form of window installations, created in ten vacant shop spaces, in the city. It is produced by Sinéad Dunphy, of Eventi Managment , and features animations by Barry McCarthy. Each window installation will display an abridged version of a well-loved Panto such as Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk and Beauty and the Beast. The animations will be brought to life, via projection mapping. a technique used to turn objects, in this case miniature theatres designed by Zagone, into display surfaces for video projection.

Cork-based projection mapping and video designer for the project, Cormac O’Connor, said: “The scenes are visible to the public through a number of apertures in each window. An abridged version of each panto will play out over a period of two and a half minutes before the curtains close.

“Each mini-pantomime experience is accompanied by a corresponding audio and will be repeated at intervals, keeping spectators moving swiftly, and safely, along.”

Cormac has enjoyed a long career as a sound and video designer in Irish theatre and also works as a musician and producer. He is no stranger to GLOW and has worked on a number of the festivals in recent years. He describes how this year’s event will ensure public safety.

“The people engaging with the panto experience are in the open air, the performances are short, encouraging the flow of spectators to move on in search of the next installation and so avoid lingering.”

He believes that Reimagine GLOW adds an additional element of magic for younger spectators, as scenes are happened upon organically on a walk through the city.

Remagine GLOW not only offers the people of Cork some welcome festive cheer at the end of a difficult year but also speaks to those involved in theatre and the arts. The impact that Covid-19 has had on the industry this year has been devastating and theatres having to remain closed for the busy Christmas season is detrimental to those concerned.

Cormac says the project pays tribute to the thousands of people who rely on the panto season to generate a sizable portion of their annual income. Theatres and performers alike rely heavily on the revenue created during a panto run, using this money to fund further creative endeavours throughout the year.

Cork City Council encourages the public to shop local this Christamas season. They have created a festive and welcoming space that can be enjoyed safely while Reimagine GLOW brings some seasonal warmth to the city center.

Covid-19 will undoubtedly change the way we celebrate Christmas this year, but the festive joy of panto will continue to delight and enchant in the heart of Cork city.

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