THERE will be a panto in Sunderland this year after all - three in fact.
The Sunderland Empire controversially decided not to hold a panto for the second year running, but businessmen breathing new life into a city venue, are bringing the spirit of Christmas back.
Business partners Jay Mullen and Mick Harrison are now at the helm of Infinity in High Street West, formerly the Theatre Restaurant, which has been closed since January.
As well as opening it up as a bar and theatre venue for plays and musicals, the pair will also host five Christmas shows, three of which will be pantomimes.
Jay said: “We’re hoping to bridge that gap between the Royalty Theatre and the Empire. We’re not quite the Customs House in South Shields, but that’s the standard we’re aiming for.
“Every Saturday and Sunday in December we will be holding a matinee panto with a different one each weekend. They will be Beauty and the Beast, Snow White and Cinderella.”
Infinity, a bar downstairs leading to a theatre and restaurant area upstairs, will also host Christmas shows for an older audience including a variety show and Alan Ayckbourn play Awaking Beauty, which is about what happens to Sleeping Beauty when she wakes up in the 21st century.
Since opening as The Theatre Restaurant in 2008, the venue has struggled to maintain a consistently-high audience, but the new management say they hope their control will herald a new chapter for the city spot.
As well as in-house productions, the venue is available for hire to touring venues and acts, functions and conferences.
Jay said: “I worked under both previous sets of managers and I always wanted to put my own stamp on things. Infinity is unique in that it’s a one-stop shop where you can have food, a drink and watch a show.
“A lot of people still don’t realise what we are, as you look in from the street and can only see the bar area. Some people have said they thought we were a strip joint, which we certainly aren’t.
“People still don’t realise we have the theatre up here, it’s like a Tardis.”
The new owners have pledged to keep prices low with a three-course meal and show starting at £15.
Forthcoming shows include a Little Shop of Rocky Horrors Hallowe’en show, a Bonfire Night show and a themed film club.
For details visit www.infinitysunderland.co.uk