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Hackney Empire

Why it takes time for shows to reopen

Hira Desai

By Hira Desai First Published 24 August 2020, Last Updated 25 August 2020

On 16 March, theatres across the country closed their doors and though from 15 August, theatres were finally given the green light to reopen for indoor performances with social distancing, the majority of venues remain closed.

Multi-award-winning Theatre Producer Kenny Wax (Six The Musical, Top Hat and all the Mischief shows including Olivier Award-winning The Play That Goes Wrong) explains that sadly shows cannot simply open overnight as it takes time to restage a show, to re-engage cast members and creatives and the stage management team, to rehearse, build an audience and for the theatre to ensure that all the necessary safety protocols are in place.

We’ve put together a timeline for reopening a large-scale show and the process involved:

10-12 weeks before reopening: A marketing campaign/press activity will be rolled out to encourage advance tickets sales

4 weeks before reopening: The cast members will work with the musical director on the singing if the show is a musical.

3 weeks before reopening: The cast begin rehearsals and the crew begin technical work on set

2 weeks before reopening: A round of costume fittings will take place

1 week before reopening: The band will be reunited for rehearsals

3 days before reopening: The crew will begin tech rehearsals

Ahead of the first preview: A couple of dress runs will be scheduled

As well as the issue of time with social distancing in place and audiences reduced to 30% it is simply not economically viable for many shows to open as they need to play to, at least 70 to 80% capacity to break even.

Many theatres are planning innovative ways to open during this period. The response to open-air theatres and those shows that have been able to open show that audiences are desperate for live theatre but sadly it is going to take time for the West End to return to its former glory.

The impact of the pandemic has been devastating for live theatre and we encourage you to continue supporting the industry, whether that’s booking tickets to see future shows, purchasing theatre tokens, donating to your local theatre or making a contribution to the Theatre Artists Fund which supports freelancers in need of urgent financial support now.

Every little helps and we really appreciate your ongoing support.


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We now sell our famous TKTS Booth discounts online here at Official London Theatre.

We are now cancelling all performances up until and including 31 May 2020 to help us process existing bookings whilst we wait for further clarity from the government in terms of when we will be able to reopen.

We are so sorry that in these testing and difficult times you are not able to enjoy the show you have booked for and hope the following helps clarify next steps in respect of your tickets .

There is nothing that you need to do if your performance has been cancelled, but we do ask for your patience.

If you have booked directly with the theatre or show website for an affected performance, please be assured that they will contact you directly to arrange an exchange for a later date, a credit note/voucher or a refund. If you have booked via a ticket agent they will also be in contact with you directly.

We are processing in strict date order of performance, so you are likely to be contacted after the date you were due to go to the theatre. However, we want to reassure you that you will be contacted, and your order will be processed, but please do bear with us.

We’d like to thank everyone who has been patient and kind in dealing with their ticket providers so far and we are sorry that we cannot process your order as quickly as we would like.

Please do not contact your credit card company as that will slow the process down and put an additional burden on our box office and ticket agent teams.

In order for us to serve our audiences the best we can, please do not get in touch with your point of sale if you have booked for performances after 31 May. Please be reassured that if we have to cancel future performances you will be directly contacted by your theatre or ticket provider. Our producers continue to plan for all eventualities dependent on the individual needs of their shows and we will provide further updates on specific shows as and when they become available.

We look forward to welcoming you back into our theatres as soon as we are allowed to resume performances. In the meantime stay safe and healthy.

While theatres are currently closed, various venues and productions are making announcements for their individual shows, including cancellations and rescheduled performances. Please check with the individual shows for details.