Across the country it seems that more and more is opening it up. We can go to the pub, go canoeing, go to theme parks and zoos or take a trip to the cinema. But the theatre? Well… that’s a different story.
Recent news saw many theatre lovers heartbroken at the prospect of Phantom of the Opera closing permanently, but luckily this proved to be incorrect. Pre-COVID-19 Her Majesty’s theatre and the sets for the show were all in need of urgent maintenance that would require a closure of the theatre. Therefore, it makes sense that Cameron Mackintosh and the Really Useful Group have decided to do this now as to reopen when allowed to rather than have to close again shortly after.
Surveys across the theatre industry have highlighted how astronomical the cost of COVID-19 is, not only for the thousands of actors now unsure of when they may be able to work again but for the 97.5% of venues and companies surveyed who have said they may face permanent closure due to the pandemic. This shows how even if and when restrictions lift, the venues may not be there for actors, comedians, runners, directors and producers to return to.
Christmas will just not be the same without a trip to the panto
Many of the big names recognised across the world, such as Les Misérables, Hamilton and Mary Poppins, have all announced they will not reopen until 2021. This news does not spring hope for any Christmas pantomimes this year, a loss that will be felt particularly by local theatres who rely on panto to bring in crowds. Christmas will just not be the same without a trip to the panto.
Theatre is a global industry and the UK produces some of the best and most well-known shows out there. COVID-19 may have halted physical productions but in the creative industry, creative solutions are in abundance. Many shows have appeared online, some for free and others for a fraction of what you would pay at the theatre, meaning it has been accessible for wider audiences. An example of this is Jason Manford who has enlisted friends in comedy for a weekly comedy club, tickets are £5 and for £11 you get access to a zoom session where you can have a chat with comedians, just as you would if you were front row at a gig.
Theatres have said that a socially distanced audience is simply not financially viable, and many productions have estimated it would take 4 months before performances could restart due to the amount of rehearsals that would be needed. Casting changes may be required due to actor availability as many may have had to get new jobs to support themselves during the pandemic as well as general production problems that accompany performances.
So, while it may be some time before we get to re-enter the theatres, I have no doubt they will return stronger than ever. The industry is strong not only due to the remarkable people who create it but also the theatre goers who will return when it is safe to do so and until then, continue to support the industry they love in any way possible.
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