A trip to see live panto might be out of the question this year, with many parts of the UK living under Tier 3 or Tier 4 restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic - but all is not lost for fans of the traditional comedy stage show.
Forces families do not have to miss out altogether on their fix of 'He's behind you!' and “Oh no he isn’t” because BFBS Live Events (formerly CSE) came to the rescue with some online panto fun for the family.
The team negotiated passes for pioneering performances of Cinderella Live which was staged live online and featured a cast including stars from Harry Potter, Hollyoaks, Coronation Street and the West End.
The show, which was broadcast live over the weekend, boasted being the world's first interactive live stream pantomime, which could be watched from anywhere in the world (internet connection permitting) and took on the fusion of theatre and broadcast television, but also brought gaming technologies into the equation.
Angie Avlianos, Manager BFBS Live Events said:
"It’s been such a tough year for the events industry and for our armed forces supporting all the various covid projects.
"It’s great that we have been able to offer families the chance to enjoy a Christmas tradition from the safety of their own home.
"This innovative production gave the audience interactivity so they could use buttons to boo, cheer and shout – He’s behind you!' It proved to be very popular with the families who benefited from it."
The BFBS Live Events team negotiated a great forces discount and funded the passes from the BFBS welfare fund. Jayne from Hereford Garrison said:
"They [the families] are over the moon so thank you very much. We really appreciate the donation from BFBS – made a huge difference.."
Captain Frankie Whelan-Mellor, Unit Welfare Officer, 1st Battalion Irish Guards said:
"Some [families] stated that they preferred this as the scenery was great and they could still participate. There was also a fair amount of adult humour which made it as enjoyable for the whole family.
"Over all the feed back is that it was a great success."
The virtual world of Cinderella Live, re-created all the magic of traditional pantomime with the added extras of live chat, interactive buttons and sing-a-longs, and was designed by gaming software, Unreal Engine.
Traditionally, Unreal Engine has predominantly been used for the development of video games such as Final Fantasy VII and Fortnite, but the video game modelling engine has more recently branched into television and film.
Panto Live, the production company behind the show, had to create advanced 3D worlds in real-time, substituting the traditional stage scenery for entirely virtual sets.
"From the very beginning we set out to produce a pantomime that will make use of the best technology available," said Producer Ben McNeill ahead of the performances,
"We have seen plenty of live events with static and lifeless backgrounds, making the watching experience less immersive and enjoyable – they are becoming a thing of the past. Cinderella Live will use animated and vibrant settings, recreating the interactivity of traditional pantomimes, whilst, of course, keeping safe this Christmas season."