Campus West has seen many laugh-out-loud pantomimes over the years, but the 2021 edition turned out to be one of the most chaotic and memorable, for all the wrong reasons.

Actors began to tread the boards for pantomime performances 50 years ago, with countless flawless shows throughout the venue's history.

There were early concerns that things might go wrong in 2021, with producer Mark Woolman telling the Welwyn Hatfield Times: "We did think we might lose someone to COVID."

December that year saw Plan B measures introduced as the new Omicron variant threatened to put a halt to Christmas celebrations, and the show ran the risk of one, or even worse, all of the actors testing positive for the virus.

Just one would be put out of action, but not by COVID-19.

That year's production was pantomime favourite Jack & the Beanstalk, with writer and director Jonas Cemm also taking to the stage to play King Penniless.

Welwyn Hatfield Times: Jack & the Beanstalk was chosen as the 2021 panto for Campus West.Jack & the Beanstalk was chosen as the 2021 panto for Campus West. (Image: A2Zoom Photographic)

Thursday, December 9 was opening night and excitement was in the air at the Campus West as the popular and much-loved panto returned.

At some point during the performance, in a real "oh no he didn't, oh yes he did moment", Jonas broke his foot on stage in freak accident, throwing the whole show into chaos.

"Poor old Jonas, I couldn’t quite believe it. It was the oddest thing," producer Mark recalled.

"You know if you’re wearing a pair of shoes and sometimes your socks aren’t the best fitting? Well he slipped within the shoe and broke his foot.

"On the first night as well. What luck is that?

“This is the first time anything like this has happened to us. We are such a small crew so we don’t have understudies."

READ MORE: 5 upcoming shows you should go and see at Campus West

Jonas would be ruled out for the remaining panto shows, leaving the production in jeopardy. A rewrite would be needed if there was any chance of the shows continuing.

"It really is quite a challenge," Mark continued.

"Throughout the pantomime, there are references to this character and he’s on stage a lot as well as singing. It is incredibly difficult.

"You have to think of every consequence of taking that person out and how it might impact the scenes.

"Any play is about how things interweave, so having to redo all of that on a Saturday morning was a real challenge."

It was left to it co-writer and Fleshcreep actor Joe Sargent, assistant director Fay Liberty and deputy stage manager Sophie Johnson to write Cemm out of the script. If not, the Campus West panto for 2021 would be over before it even really began.

"I think they started about 11am and I spoke to Joe over the course of the day, and each time I spoke to him he got more and more exasperated as he was trying to rework everything," Mark recalled.

As they say, the show must go on, and somehow, after hours of changes and tinkering, the script was ready to go.

Welwyn Hatfield Times: COVID cases forced the later shows to be cancelled.COVID cases forced the later shows to be cancelled. (Image: A2Zoom Photographic)

"To get a show that people really enjoyed on the Saturday is a real testament to the amazing knowledge and skill of everyone involved," he continued.

"I know that Jonas is incredibly proud, but this is the first panto he’s written and he was also in it, so he was really invested. He is heartbroken."

Eventually, COVID spreading throughout the cast and crew would see the later panto shows cancelled.

Jonas is back as the writer for this year's show, Robin Hood, as Campus West celebrates its 50th anniversary, and he will be hoping 2023 is far less eventful than the panto of 2021.

Everyone's favourite heroic archer will be joined by Maid Marion, and their merry band of outlaws in Sherwood Forest as they fight back against the dastardly, money grabbing Sheriff of Nottingham.

There is also the famous Blue Panto, strictly for adults only, with Robin – Keep on Riding billed as a "very naughty and saucy take on the tale".

Shows run from Wednesday, December 6 to Wednesday, January 3. You can get your tickets at