In light of the continued coronavirus emergency and advice from Prime Minister Boris Johnson that people should avoid “pubs, clubs, theatres and other such social venues” during the pandemic, SOLT and UK Theatre has announced that member venues will close from the evening of Monday 16 March 2020. The venues will remain closed until further notice and will re-open as soon as possible, following government recommendations.
The statement continued:
“The safety of our audience and workforce is paramount to us as we navigate this challenging time. The magic of theatre lies in its live performances and it is not something that can be experienced in the same way remotely.
“Its ability to lift people and entertain people even in times of difficulty is unparalleled and so we are extremely grateful to all of our audiences, who have continued to support us for as long as they can. We can’t wait to welcome our audiences back into the UK’s theatres as soon as possible.
“We would like to commend the dedicated hard work from everyone in theatres across London and the UK over the last few weeks to continue to entertain and delight people for as long as they safely could. There are over 290,000 individuals working in the theatre industry across the UK, and the closure of theatres and public venues will have a devastating impact.
Many theatres that have been forced to cancel performances are charitable enterprises and have reached out to their audiences and asked for their support by donating their tickets. While ticketholders are all entitled to a refund for cancelled performances, the financial toll that refunding these tickets will have on small, charitably funded theatres is vast. We urge anyone who can afford to donate the cost of their ticket to show their support for our industry by doing so.”
Earlier on today a number of venues, The Old Vic, Arcola Theatre, Turbine Theatre and Finborough Theatre, were among the first in the capital to shut down in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. The Royal Court Theatre, Bush Theatre, Menier Chocolate Factory and Royal Opera House soon followed.
Endgame, starring Alan Cumming and Daniel Radcliffe, was one of the most high-profile casualties. The production had been due to run until 28 March 2020. In a Twitter statement the venue management said: “It is with great sadness that we have had to suspend the production of #OVEndgame for the next two weeks, which is the remainder of its run.”
A note from our Artistic Director. pic.twitter.com/eSNAM30AiD
— The Turbine Theatre (@TurbineTheatre) March 15, 2020
At the Turbine Theatre in Battersea, artistic director Paul Taylor-Mills tweeted: “We take the health and safety of our staff, performers and indeed audiences very seriously… With this in mind we’ve taken the difficult but necessary decision to cancel all performances from Monday 16 March until Saturday 16 April.
“We will monitor the global situation closely and make a decision at a later date if we need to cancel further performances.”
The Arcola Theatre suspended all public performances until further notice. In a joint statement, artistic director Mehmet Ergen, executive producer Leyla Nazli and executive director Ben Todd said the impact of the virus was a critical threat to Arcola as well as the livelihoods of all those who work in the arts.
“Most of Arcola’s funding comes from people coming to see our performances. Without these performances, the vast majority of our income is gone. But we do not believe that it is practical or responsible for us to stage shows while people’s lives are at risk,” they said. The theatre is now appealing to supporters and the public for help to ensure its survival.
The statement added: “Arcola Theatre is a registered charity, and any donation – large or small – will ensure that our theatre stays thriving, long after this crisis is past.”
Some theatre industry figures have taken to social media, distraught that Boris Johnson has stopped short of forcing venues to close, leaving some affected industries in limbo.
Producer Patrick Gracey wrote:
“Boris Johnson has just doomed an entire industry by telling people not to attend the theatre. By not enforcing a shutdown, production insurance will not apply so producers and shows will go bankrupt, and tens of thousands of people will be without pay.”
MyTheatreMates founder Terri Paddock was quick to agree: “The West End theatres across the country go dark with immediate effect. While many of this has seen this as the inevitable – and right – course for some time, the way it’s been handled by the Government is disgraceful.”
I’m so sorry & so worried for all the producers, directors, designers, theatre administrators, FOH staff, crew, everyone who will be devastated by this. These are my friends, my community & I genuinely don’t think we will all get thru #coronavirus & its aftermath. 6/
— Terri Paddock (@TerriPaddock) March 16, 2020
The Stage has reported that Equity has said it plans to issue “clear direction” by 17:00 tomorrow (17 March) about how the theatre closure will impact its members, adding: “This is a worrying time for our members, and the solidarity of all Equity members, activists and staff are with those affected. The union will work hard to ensure that members are treated fairly during this uncertain period, putting the health and safety of our members and communities first and protecting their income as best we can. We will be looking at how we can best support members through this period, not just through our collective agreements and advice, but also mutual aid groups and signposting.”