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West End and London theatres to close from 16 December

les miserables west end - 1

All theatres in London and the West End will be forced to close from 16 December.

New rules are to be put into place in the capital from Wednesday with ‘Tier 3’ restrictions enforced.

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As well as the closure of theatres, Tier 3 will also close bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants except for when offering takeaway, delivery and click and collect services.

The new measures will impact the whole of London as well as parts of Essex and Hertfordshire.

A date for the lifting of the restrictions is yet to be confirmed.

The closure follows the first West End musicals re-opening just days ago with Six The Musical beginning performances at the Lyric Theatre last week and Everybody’s Talking About Jamie returning only on Saturday.

Julian Bird, chief executive of SOLT and London Theatres said: “Today’s Government announcement placing London in Tier 3 from Wednesday is devastating news for the city’s world-leading theatre industry. The past few days have seen venues beginning to reopen with high levels of Covid security, welcoming back enthusiastic, socially distanced audiences.

“Theatres across London will now be forced to postpone or cancel planned performances, causing catastrophic financial difficulties for venues, producers and thousands of industry workers – especially the freelancers who make up 70 per cent of the theatre workforce.

“We urge Government to recognise the huge strain this has placed on the sector and look at rapid compensation to protect theatres and their staff over Christmas in all areas of the country under Tier 3 restrictions.”

“All we have is empty words and empty chairs!”

West End producer Cameron Mackintosh, who is currently staging a concert production of Les Misérables, said in a statement: “The sudden volt face by the government in deciding to immediately put London into Tier 3 and shut down the West End is devastating for both the theatre and the economy. Even worse it smacks of panic and makes all our considerable and costly efforts to ensure the safety of both performers and audiences alike, widely praised by the health authorities, seem worthless – breaking any sense of trust between us as an industry and the government departments we’ve been trying to build a rapport with.

“The commercial theatre has had virtually no support from the Treasury, apart from the offer of quite expensive loans – which we, unlike the subsidised theatre, have been asked to give personal guarantees to repay. A lot of us do not want to go into debt to pay for losses caused by diktats completely out of our control.

“The constant changes of rules and advice we have received is impossible for any business to react to. A private company behaving like this would be subject to legal charges from its investors. Yet the government seems to play with our rights and liberties with impunity. We have almost 100 mostly self-employed performers and staff working on Les Misérables – The Staged Concert at the Sondheim Theatre.

“At a stroke, this government has tipped them into unemployment just in time for Christmas – Bah Humbug to the Prime Minister and the men in white coats. We will have to disappoint thousands of patrons over the next few weeks who were booked to safely see Les Mis over the holidays. We intend to continue performances in January as soon as we are allowed to and demand clarity of a date as soon as possible. Where is the leadership this government promised? All we have is empty words and empty chairs!”

“This feels like a final straw”

Producer Sonia Friedman said in a statement: “London going into Tier Three is yet another blow for British theatre – one it simply cannot afford after a brutal year, and one that both could and should have been avoided.

“All the effort and energy, not to even mention the expense, of re-opening shows safely has once again been undercut by a decision that will devastate our industry and its freelance workforce – many of whom have still not received any government support and now face a further loss of employment. All this despite not a single case of infection being linked to a theatre anywhere in the country.

“Theatres and producers, who have collectively lost over £1 billion in revenue since March, now face millions of pounds of additional losses and continued uncertainty for the coming months, destroying confidence in the sector that we have worked so hard to rebuild. Commercial producers – the sector’s biggest employers and largest economic contributors – have received just 0.8% of the £1.57 billion Cultural Recovery Fund.

“This latest closure under Tier 3 underlines – unequivocally – the urgent need for a government-backed insurance scheme, as already provided to film and television, for meaningful compensation to mitigate impending losses incurred by productions forced to close, and for targeted support for freelance workers unable to take advantage of the furlough scheme.

“This feels like a final straw: proof that this government does not understand theatre and the existential crisis it is facing. Its short-sightedness is starting to look like serial mismanagement.”

Meanwhile, Wednesday will also see a review of restrictions in other parts of the country with the potential for relaxing of rules in areas such as Manchester which is currently in the Tier 3 band.

Picture: Stage Chat

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