There has been a mixed response from theatres up and down the country to the Government’s announcement detailing which areas of England will fall into which Tier when the second lockdown comes to an end on 2 December 2020.
While those producers and creatives planning festive shows in Tier 2 locations such as London and Liverpool were able to breath a sign of relief, there was devastating disappointment for creatives in Tier 3 areas including Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester, Nottingham, Leicester, Bristol and Newcastle.
From 2 December indoor theatre performances are allowed in Tiers 1 and 2 with an audience of 1,000 socially distanced people or 50% occupancy, whichever is smaller. In Tier 3 productions are prohibited from going ahead. The Tiers will be reviewed on 16 December 2020.
A number of theatres and companies based in Tier 3, including Nottingham Playhouse, the RSC in Stratford-upon-Avon, Curve Leicester and Sheffield Theatres will continue to offer online content, but the news has come as a great psychological and financial blow.
Stephanie Sirr, chief executive of Nottingham Playhouse, said: “We are disappointed to confirm that Nottingham Playhouse will remain closed to the public due to Tier 3 restrictions. This means that that live performances of our pantomime, Cinderella, and our family show, Jack and the Beanstalk, will now start no sooner than Wednesday 16 December.
“However, we are delighted that our On Demand performances are being made available from mid-December and our Cinderella Online Christmas Eve Special will also go ahead as planned.”
Julian Bird, chief executive of SOLT and UK Theatre, suggested that some venues might not survive without the income from their Christmas season and also touched on how the situation would affect freelancers who were living without access to any Government support: “Today’s Government announcement is a relief for theatres in Tier 1 and 2 areas, including London’s West End, but equally devastating for Tier 3 theatres yet again forced to postpone or cancel shows – especially Pantos, usually an annual highlight for families and a vital source of income for theatres around the country.
“This risks the survival of many venues and leaves thousands of theatre professionals struggling over the Christmas period, particularly freelancers who cannot rely on Government support.”
Theatres Trust director Jon Morgan added: “It is a terrible blow for the theatre sector that so many large towns and cities in England are now in Tier 3 where theatres are not permitted to open. There are many theatres that we know were planning pantos and other shows for December and this news will be devastating for those organisations.
“They will have invested in rehearsals and other preparations for reopening and will now find themselves unable to recoup those costs, facing further financial strain in what has already been a catastrophic year.”