ACTRESS Michelle Collins has urged Dorset residents to support pantomimes this Christmas and says multiple precautions are in place to keep audiences Covid safe.

The former star of EastEnders and Coronation Street will be starring as the evil queen Nightshade in Beauty and the Beast at Lighthouse in Poole.

She said: “I think it’s really tough trying to do a panto in Covid because it’s completely different from olden times, we’re all having to wear masks, we take Covid tests every day, we only have two understudies and we’re all in bubbles, we know how important it is that we’re safe as well as protecting the audience.

“We really are putting a lot of effort into the safety precautions to the point where it was kind of stressful in the beginning, having to get up early and having to test but after a while you kind of get used to it because I think this is going to be the way of the world.

“The hardest thing is having to try and act and sing with masks on, I think we’re all kind of terrified that if one person gets it then we don’t want to have to close, it will be every disappointing for us but mostly for the audience because I think people are desperate to see shows again.”

Ms Collins says people should feel safe coming to the theatre and that for many families it may provide a sense of normality.

She said: “I think Christmas was pretty awful for most people last year and it was pretty awful for me my mum was quite ill and she actually died in April, so last year we didn’t even have a proper Christmas together, this year will be a poignant Christmas as well really.

“I do think people have missed theatre so much and the joy that kids and families get out of coming to the theatre. Panto brings people together and that’s what we’ve all missed is the coming together.

“I think it’s very important that people are safe, that they protect themselves and their families and we will do the same, we want to give people a really good show and I don’t think anything is really sacrificed at all.”

Ms Collins says they have they’ve pulled all the stops out to make up for the last two years.

She said: “I just feel everyone’s had a really tough couple of years and we just need some fun and some joy in our lives, some nice singing and dancing, silly jokes and some evilness from me. I would say don’t be scared just be safe but still come.

“It’s important to keep live theatre going, they’re a lot of people that work in this theatre as well, it’s not just the actors, it’s the backstage people and the production people and everyone else, it’s their livelihoods as well so you’re also helping other people keep their jobs.

“The creative industry brings something like £120 billion into this country and we’ve probably been affected by the pandemic more than any other, apart from probably maybe aviation professions, so please support us and we will do our best to give you a brilliant show, you won’t be disappointed.”