WEYMOUTH Pavilion has been forced to make 25 members of staff - 70% of its workforce - redundant after suffering losses of more than £500,000 during lockdown, bosses have revealed - as they prepare to open the doors to a live audience for the first time since March.

The attraction will be reopening its doors on Wednesday to stage performances of its annual summer pantomime with social distancing measures in place, after the Government gave the green light for indoor theatre performances.

General Manager, Phil Say, said: "We have lost more than half a million pounds of income while we've been shut; 80 per cent of our business is based around shows, events, fundraisers, parties and conferences - none of which we have been able to do since March.

"We had 36 staff before the pandemic and we are now down to 10 as we had to make redundancies. We hope that when we get up and running again we will be able to bring some back but we don't know what will happen.

"The 10 staff we have left are trying to make sure we are in a strong enough place to survive."

The first live show to be staged in front of an audience will be the annual summer pantomime, Pirates at the Pavilion.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic which closed theatres and venues, a decision was taken to stage the showcase outdoors at Nothe Fort.

But following the government announcement - and a rainy weather forecast for Weymouth - two of the performances will take place on its resident stage.

Mr Say said: "The weather forecast on Wednesday is not fantastic so we will be moving back inside the theatre for the performances at 4:30pm and 7:30pm.

"We will close every other row of seating to ensure the audience can socially distance and enforce wearing masks.

"It is going to be a proper feel good affair."

Remaining pavilion staff are thrilled to be reopening the stage and welcoming an audience back into the theatre.

Amy Robinson, from the Pavilion's marketing department, said: "We are so excited. It's been so difficult being shut for so long. We cannot wait to open the doors and get people in again."