The show must go online for East Midlands hospice

Pantomime legend Bernie Clifton and the real Robin Hood – aka Nottinghamshire actor Tim Pollard – have joined staff at an East Midlands hospice to make sure that their annual Christmas show will go on – online that it is.
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Over the next week, patients of Treetops Hospice Care, will be given a special festive ‘cake and care’ support package delivered to their home by nursing staff and volunteers.

Each package includes a Christmas decoration, handmade gingerbread and truffles, a Christmas cracker, a chocolate orange – complete with specially-knitted festive cover, and a card, which has been made by children at a local secondary school.

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The packages will also include an invitation to watch the pantomime – virtually.

Panto legend Bernie Clifton - and Oswald - are part of the Treetops online showPanto legend Bernie Clifton - and Oswald - are part of the Treetops online show
Panto legend Bernie Clifton - and Oswald - are part of the Treetops online show

The pantomime, a specially-adapted COVID-19 compliant version of Robin Hood, has been filmed over the past month at Treetops, based in Risley.

The script was redrafted several times to make sure that there were only ever three actors on set at any one time and also features references from lockdown, such as the high value of toilet rolls and social distancing.

Bernie Clifton, famed for his performances on popular children’s TV show Crackerjack – along with ostrich puppet costume Oswald – has a special guest appearance at the start of the show.

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Tim Pollard, the Official Robin Hood of Nottinghamshire – who has also appeared on Blue Peter and Blind Date – also stars as himself.

Ali Jordan, senior staff nurse at Treetops, said: “Normally at Christmas time, the hospice is full of patients enjoying festive music, performances from magicians, carol singers, visits from our Pets as Therapy dog and other animals, and of course, lots of Christmas dinners.

“Everything for the pantomime this year has been done online, from sourcing costumes to script read-throughs and there have been many challenges along the way, including creating a six-metre wide blue screen and filming in near-freezing conditions at the hospice, with the doors and windows to our wellbeing space being wide open.

“It felt like a proper film set at times, with actors sitting off-set in masks and coats to keep warm.

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“Our patients have been cheered up by having a surprise to open and enjoy having the continued contact from Treetops, as well as the regular support calls we have been making, too.

“Some of them are separated from their loved ones this Christmas and that is hard for them.

"Families are planning to wave through windows this year, rather than spending quality time with them and that’s very difficult.

“Last year’s pantomime was so successful in terms of bringing joy and laughter to our patients, staff and volunteers and we’re lucky to have access to the expertise of a great audio-visual team here at Treetops, who have put together an Oscar-worthy panto.

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“We very much want to bring some joy to everyone after the hardship that many have endured this year and we hope that the pantomime and Christmas Care packages will do just that.”

To donate to Treetops click here.