OXFORD Playhouse has cancelled its biggest money-spinner of the year because of the coronavirus crisis.

The Beaumont Street theatre has cancelled this year's pantomime, Robin Hood. because of social distancing concerns.

The Playhouse panto is among the city's favourite traditional festive attractions and is an important source of income for the venue, bringing it money which help fund its year-round programme of new theatre and dance.

A theatre spokesman said: "It is with great sadness that Oxford Playhouse has announced that this year’s pantomime can unfortunately no longer go ahead, due to the ongoing restrictions around live performance during the Covid-19 crisis.

"The Playhouse recognises that this news will be disappointing for its loyal panto audiences, and would like to thank them all for their ongoing support."

Louise Chantal and Vanessa Lefrancois, joint directors of the theatre said: “Panto at the Playhouse is a tradition for thousands of families in Oxford, which is why we have delayed making this incredibly hard decision till as late as possible.

"Unfortunately, the Covid-19 crisis is not improving enough for us to risk producing the pantomime when we might face a lockdown or new opening restrictions at any time.

"While Robin Hood will not be swashbuckling his way through the forest this year, we are determined that Christmas will still happen at the Playhouse, with lots of creative opportunities available online.”

Ticketholders have been notified. The venue is requesting supporters not to claim refunds just yet, however, saying: "We are humbly asking panto bookers to consider either crediting their booking to next year’s pantomime or donating the cost of their tickets to the Playhouse Plays OnAppeal, to help the theatre survive these extraordinary times. For those not in a position to do so, full refunds will also be available."

Email boxoffice@oxfordplayhouse.com.