PANTO fans were left angry after a show descended into “chaos” with children “running riot” through the theatre.

Three productions of Alice in Wonderland held at the Victoria Halls on Saturday, October 19, were marred by problems after the ticketing system failed to allocate seats correctly.

The show cost just £1 per person and was the first time such an event had been held at the Knowsley Street venue.

However, the mix-up meant that the some families were unable to sit together and the audience was made to queue until after the pantomime was due to start.

James Tindle, who went to see the show with his wife and three children, said there were groups of youngsters running around the theatre and that the audience was making so much noise it was difficult to hear.

“We got there at 5.30pm for the 6pm show and we didn’t get in until after 6pm,” he explained.

“What really didn’t help was that a lot of the audience was behaving badly.

“There were children running around and parents were letting their kids run riot. They weren’t trying to stop them.”

“From my point of view it was the fact that it was dangerous in terms of fire exits. If there was an issue we wouldn’t have been able to get out.”

Some members of the audience complained on Facebook about having to sit on the stairs of the theatre while others complained of being behind pillars.

The Bolton News:

The view of one audience member was covered by a post.

Joseph Purdy, whose company produced the show, explained that there was a problem with the ticketing agent and a lack of staff at the venue on the day of the production but that these issues were resolved ahead of further shows on Sunday.

“I fully expect people to be a little bit put out but the difference Saturday to Sunday alone was huge,” he said. “The whole idea of doing October — like we said from the start — was to find our feet, iron out creases and see what works and doesn’t so we can make sure for Christmas and beyond we can produce shows of the highest quality as we have always done.”

This weekend’s pantomime was the first in a string of shows leading into the Christmas period.

It was also the first time an event like this had been held at the Victoria Halls and Mr Purdy explained that production staff had to construct a stage, set and lighting ahead of the show.

However, he was critical of some parents for failing to ensure their children remained in seats during the show.

He said: “I think it’s also important that people do remember when watching the show to have respect for others and a basic level of theatre etiquette.

“We were disgusted to go into the theatre and see children running around and talking during the performance like a free for all; that’s not acceptable and while there should and will be stewards in future, we are not a crèche and it’s the responsibility of the parent to ensure the children stays in their seat unless encouraged to get up and join in by cast.”

The next show at the venue will take place tomorrow when Mr Purdy brings The Little Mermaid to the stage in another production priced at just £1.

He added: “We would like to apologise if anyone is upset and, while we feel sad if we have lost customers, we do understand but we cannot stress enough that problems were out of our hands but the best thing we can do and will do, is come back fighting, stronger, bigger and better. This week will continue to be a learning curve but which each show we will improve.”

The Victoria Halls also moved to assure customers that future shows would not be hit with similar problems.

A spokesman for the venue said: “It’s a massive learning curve. We’re trying to bring cheap and affordable entertainment to families in Bolton.

“We’re trying to move from doing classical music to more family oriented entertainment and get people into the church and the mission.”