Man throwing Christmas show faces £20k bill if it’s cancelled due to lockdown
A budding entrepreneur who is planning to put on a Covid-friendly version of A Christmas Carol after spending his time on furlough finishing a 115-page script could be left with a whopping £20,000 bill if lockdown is extended.
Tobias Cornwell, 23, from Tunbridge Wells, Kent, has vowed to find a way for the 17-night immersive theatre show to go on, including "begging, borrowing and working tirelessly" to pay for it – as he’s determined to give people "something to look forward to".
As well as writing up to 10,000 words a day while furloughed from his job in hospitality, the 23-year-old business studies graduate is fronting all the costs – including venue hire and serving a three-course meal.
Tobias, whose show has been rescheduled to start running from December 2, the day lockdown is expected to be lifted, said: "The cost of A Cratchits’ Christmas Carol is currently between £15,000 – £20,000, and if the shows get cancelled then I will be the one who’s feet the bill lands at.
"That’s not the kind of money I have in my bank account. It’s serious cash I signed off on while the government were adamant that they were going to stick with their tiered system.
"If the worst happens, my first priority is refunds; no customer will be out of pocket. I will then beg, borrow and work tirelessly until everything else is paid off."
Tobias added: "Christmas spirit is the exact thing we all need. That’s why I haven’t given up.
"I’m sure this show will go on, I’m sure it will be exceptional, and I’m sure everyone will leave full, festive and ready to spread goodwill."
When he was finishing the script during the first lockdown with his co-writer James Alston, Tobias, who has been involved in theatre since he was 17, ensured the immersive show followed government Covid guidelines.
He then went about recruiting the other three castmates – Alston, Anna Blackburn and Kathryn Djemai – and hiring a venue; The Beacon in Kent.
Tobias added: "At the height of it all I was getting up at 5am, at my desk by 6am and writing through until 8pm. I topped out at writing 10,000 words a day for a week, not a healthy thing to sustain, and if I had another choice I would have slowed down.
"Needs must prevail in this situation though and I knew I had to work harder than ever before."
However, just after Tobias had begun to sell tickets for the immersive show, the government announced the second wave of lockdown.
If all goes to plan, the performance will take place inside a Grand Pavilion – where guests will be seated while socially distanced – in the lavish gardens of The Beacon restaurant in Tunbridge Wells.
Tobias said: "This second wave appears to be levelling off and so I’m confident by the 2nd December the show will go on.
"If it doesn’t and the lockdown is extended, then I will look down every avenue to see if there is any way of producing this show without compromising on the experience before giving up.
"This show is incredibly important to myself, everyone involved, and everyone who is coming because we need something positive to look forward to during lockdown, and we are going to need a whole lot of Christmas spirit to pull us all together to get through this."
Tobias believes having something to look forward to this Christmas will help lots of people – so he was determined to come up with an innovative way to ensure the show could go on this winter.
So much so – he’s personally paying for all the performance and hiring costs, until the show sells enough tickets to break even.
Tobias also plans to star in the month-long show that sees audience members choose who plays Scrooge on the night.
The show has now been pushed back to 2-20 December. Tickets for the production are on sale for between £55-£70pp – and include a three-course Christmas feast cooked by Michelin-recommended chefs.
Tobias’ productions are unlike any West End spectacle – with his previous shows cleverly taking place in dark forests, hand-built huts and abandoned houses.
His recreation of A Christmas Carol is set amongst the magical backdrop of The Beacon offering sprawling countryside views and a Grand Pavilion with a warm festive atmosphere.
On the night, guests will step inside the home of the Cratchits’ family to be welcomed and seated by Charles Dickens’ most famous fictional characters, Bob, Emily, Martha and Tim Cratchit.
Detailing what will happen on the night, Tobias said: "It will be a Christmas wonderland – beautiful and grand. There’ll be tables dotted around the space and the Cratchits’ family will welcome you in.
"Drinks and starters will arrive as you take your seat and then the show begins. Each audience member is an extended member of the Cratchit family and it's time for the annual Cratchit Christmas feast.
"With plenty of the usual singing and festive jollities which we all love, and once again the Cratchit family have prepared their retelling of how Ebenezer Scrooge learnt how to love Christmas.
"The only problem is that this year they can’t decide who's supposed to be playing Scrooge. So it's up to the audience to pick who gets to perform the plum role – the biggest cheer wins!
"Then, as Scrooge’s nephew Fred eats his Christmas dinner, the audience’s meal will be served too as the show subtly leads into the interval.
"Then there will also be a point near the end where desserts will suddenly be served because Scrooge starts to love Christmas and gives Christmas pudding to everyone!"
Ticket details – A Cratchits’ Christmas Carol
2nd December – 20th December (excl Mondays)
Tues-Sat 7pm start | Sunday 5pm start
The Beacon, Tea Garden Lane, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, TN3 9JH
Tickets range from £55-£70 and include a three-course Christmas feast cooked by the Michelin Guide recommended chefs at The Beacon.
Book via www.gooms.co.uk/tickets (Due to COVID-19 tables will seat up to 6 and therefore a minimum booking of 4 must be made.)
Tobias used his time furloughed from his job in the hospitality industry during lockdown to put the finishing touches to this unique production – which he describes as "different, daring and bold".
The former business student, who graduated from Exeter University in 2018, has put his all into his theatre company – called Get Out Of My Space, or GOOMS.
He said: "I don’t like producing shows in theatres, that’s a personal choice and I have no issues with shows in theatres, but now is the perfect time for shows to be put on in unconventional spaces.
"As soon as you’re not bound by rows of seats and a proscenium arch you can achieve wonderful things."
But Tobias happily puts in the hard work. He said: ‘GOOMS represents the future of theatre and Christmas is the perfect season to show what we can do.
He added: "We’re not doing regular performances in half-empty auditoriums.
"What we are presenting is the future of theatre; our style is unrestricted by an auditorium and leaves audiences in awe of what is possible under the umbrella that is theatre.’
"This Christmas show is different; no one knows who is going to be picked to play Scrooge, and you’re not watching from miles away like you would if you went up to London.
"If you're looking for an evening filled with laughs, delicious food and a whole lot of Christmassy spirit, look no further!"
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