In a statement today, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that as of Wednesday 16 December, London, south and west Essex (Basildon, Brentwood, Harlow, Epping Forest, Castle Point, Rochford, Maldon, Braintree, Chelmsford, Thurrock and Southend-on-Sea) and the south of Hertfordshire (Three Rivers, Watford, Hertsmere and Broxbourne) will enter tier 3. As a result, all theatre venues within these areas will be closed as of Wednesday morning.
In response to the announcement, Julian Bird, Chief Executive of the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre 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% 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.”
Today’s news has come as huge blow to our industry professionals who have been working tirelessly for months to ensure that venues could reopen safely, offering training advice and practical support. Our See It Safely mark was created in collaboration with the sector and was welcomed by The Department of Culture, Media and Sport in order to reassure theatregoers that venues are following the latest government and performing arts guidelines. A number of strict safety measures have been implemented in venues including social distancing, temperature checks and one-way systems as well as an in-built Track And Trace system so we know exactly who is in our building and where they are seated.
For ticketholders who are unable to attend their shows following today’s news, please rest assured that you do not need to do anything at this moment. Your ticket providers will be in touch to discuss your exchange/refund options and we can’t wait to welcome you back as soon as we can.
With theatres being closed for the majority of this year, the pandemic has left thousands of theatre professionals in need of urgent and critical financial support. The Theatre Artists Fund has already helped thousands of struggling UK theatre professionals pay their bills and put food on the table, and the demand for emergency financial relief has never been higher – especially following today’s government announcement placing London in tier 3. Public donations are vital for the fund to continue – we urge anyone who can donate to do so, helping us protect the future of our world-leading theatre industry.
We are devastated for all the shows that have been impacted by today’s news. We thank all the audiences who have supported us and we cannot wait for theatres who have gone into tier 3 to be able to reopen again safely and be #BackOnStage
The impact of today’s news is sending shockwaves across the industry. We’ve gathered some of the reactions from industry professionals below:
Cameron Mackintosh: “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!”
Michael Harrison, Producer and Director of Pantoland at The Palladium: “We are devastated by today’s news that London will move to Tier 3, forcing the closure of Pantoland at The Palladium.
“We are deeply concerned about the economic impact of today’s decision for businesses in the West End and believe that we have done everything possible to ensure a Covid-secure environment within The London Palladium for our audiences, following all advice from Government. Whilst the safety and health of our visitors, staff and performers is of extreme importance, the Government’s yo-yoing approach on advice is frankly appalling. It is not possible for any business to function in an environment where our leaders seem to have simply no idea how our country will look from one week to the next. The advice is bordering on incompetent.
“Pantoland at The Palladium opened to rapturous standing ovations, and we saw a reaction from the audience like nothing we’ve experienced before – such was their delight to be back in the theatre seeing live performance. We were honoured to welcome Royal and Government guests at our special key worker performance on Friday. The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden, saw for himself on Friday the rigorous safety measures in place at The London Palladium and I was thrilled to see him crying with laughter, it’s just a shame my entire cast and Company are now crying because of the Government’s decision to put London into Tier 2 just 12 days ago encouraging us all to press on with our productions only to realise that was in fact a mistake. One of many, many mistakes.
“Our partners at LW Theatres will be in touch with customers directly regarding refunds, and we ask for the audience’s patience as we work through contacting the tens of thousands of customers who were looking forward to a magical visit to pantomime in the West End this Christmas.”
Sonia Freidman, producer of The Comeback: “Following the devastating announcement that London will be entering Tier 3 on Wednesday 16th Dec, THE COMEBACK performances from Wednesday 16th Dec onwards have been postponed.
“Having installed extensive safety measures at the theatre, for the last week of previews we have been welcoming delighted audiences to the Noel Coward Theatre to enjoy this brilliant, funny and heart-warming show. They have left the theatre uplifted, energized and reminded about the power of theatre and the vital role it can play in the mental well-being of the community.
“To have that so abruptly, cruelly and illogically ripped away is heart-breaking. Not just for those audiences but also for the entire company of performers, creatives, stage crew and other freelancers who for so long have been without work. They all now face yet more uncertainty and pain.
Click here to read Sonia’s full statement.
Louis Hartshorn and Brian Hook, producers of The Great Gatsby immersive experience: “This is a hammer blow to an industry which has been fighting valiantly to bring culture and community to people’s lives this Christmas.
“The Government has created a situation where millions of pounds have been spent on re-launching productions and shut them down just as revenue is about to be generated, leaving even more organisations in extreme financial difficulty and putting jobs for permanent staff and freelancers alike at even greater risk.
“Further financial support is essential to avoid yet more high profile casualties in the Theatre industry.
“Our productions of The Great Gatsby and Doctor Who: Time Fracture will continue as planned when the new restrictions lift, as we stand by our principles of protecting employment and providing enriching cultural experiences designed to be fit for these difficult times.”
James Quaife Productions, producer of GHBoy: “In response to London being placed in Tier 3 from Wednesday, the final performance of GHBoy at Charing Cross Theatre will take place this evening, Monday 14 December, with the remainder of the run cancelled. Having rescheduled the production due to the second national lockdown in November, we are devastated not to be able to continue sharing this show with audiences, and would like to thank all those who came out to see us. Ticket holders will be contacted by their point of purchase.”
Lisa Burger, Joint Chief Executive of the National Theatre: “Everyone at the National Theatre is incredibly disappointed to once again be having to close the theatre and cancel performances, as London is placed in Tier 3. We of course understand the need to ensure the public’s safety however we, alongside colleagues across our sector, have gone to enormous lengths to ensure the safety of audiences visiting the theatre. We have taken the decision to cancel performances of Dick Whittington until 5 January when we hope to be able to reopen after the tier restrictions have been reviewed. We will film the performance tomorrow evening and share this for free via YouTube from the 23 December and we are contacting all audience members directly who had booked for the cancelled performances.”