A SPECIAL effects company which creates spectacular illusions for live shows has seen 95 per cent of its income disappear because of the pandemic.

The Twins FX has provided jaw-dropping visuals for a host of pantomimes as well as Doctor Who Live, Back to the Future The Musical and Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds.

The company – founded by 52-year-old identical twins Gary and Paul Hardy-Brown –employs seven people directly as well as around 40 freelancers, with two units in Wareham and one in Shillingstone.

Gary Hardy-Brown said: “We’ve lost about 95 per cent of our income. It’s been a challenging year.

“We’re all in the same boat, we’ve all had trials and tribulations and debts, but our sector is one of the worst sectors out.”

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Boris Johnson has announced that theatres could be allowed to reopen from May 17 under restrictions, but it is not known what those restrictions will be.

Mr Johnson has previously suggested audiences could be required to submit to rapid tests for Covid-19, but Mr Hardy-Brown said the idea was unworkable.

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Three quarters of The Twins FX’s business normally comes from panto. The company provided a spectacular effect for the climax of Back to the Future The Musical, which was a big hit in Manchester last year but only ran for two weeks before it was closed by lockdown.

“We use 40 freelancers. Some of those have found other means of support,” said Mr Hardy-Brown.

“We’ve tried to help them out, giving them support financially and morally just to try and get them through it, but it’s becoming hard. If that happens for a second year in our main panto season, we’re going to lose a lot of good people.

“We’ve applied for new Arts Council funding for the performing arts but I think the uptake for this was really big because there are a lot of companies in the same boat. I just don’t think we’re going to get anything.”

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He said he had looked at ways of reinventing the business but it was difficult. “A seven-metre Cinderella coach and animatronic horses and all this big special equipment – where can we place those?” he says.

“There are outdoor events but our stuff isn’t really outdoorsy because it’s nearly all flying.

“If we can just turn over and cover our costs that’s where we need to be. At the moment, we’re not doing that. I don’t want to make any profit as long as we can keep the guys employed,” he added.

“This is our life. We’re not going to give it up lightly.

“Lloyds Bank see the potential of the business so they’ve been really helpful with interest-only payments on the mortgage and stuff but they’re running out, they want everything now. It’s a hard decision that needs to be made but I want to keep all the staff on because I know when we get out of this, we will have work.”