Can London’s theatres survive Lockdown 2.0?
It’s going to be tough. But this, says Nick Curtis, is a resilient business, full of impassioned
people fighting to ensure the thing they
love most returns stronger than ever
Theatreland is holding its breath. If Lockdown 2 ends as planned next Thursday, a wave of stage work will follow 48 hours later. Six the musical, an all-star concert of Les Misérables and, erm, Potted Panto will open their doors in the West End. The Almeida’s first show in eight months, Nine Lessons and Carols, will have had its first preview already, on 3 December, as will Hampstead Theatre’s 60th anniversary production of Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter. The National Theatre is due to reopen the following week, as is the Bush.
This is remarkable. London theatre, the flagship of the UK’s £10.8bn arts sector, was hit punishingly hard by Lockdown 1; its revenue streams and its raison d’être — liveness — cut off, its infrastructure financially draining, its mostly freelance workforce hung out to dry. After late but gratefully received bailouts from the Government’s £1.57bn culture recovery fund, and the easing of restrictions, a modest slate of openings was planned this month, before the second lockdown hit.
Only the National made it, reopening with Roy Williams and Clint Dyer’s powerful monologue, Death of England: Delroy, on 4 November and closing again the same night. But this time round it felt different. Delroy was a joyful event. Across London managements and producers flexed quickly to reschedule shows for December. Others started scheduling work for spring.
"once the scale of the crisis became clear the sector faced two questions: how to stay afloat and how to stay visible and relevant"
"I am not campaigning for things to be anything but better than they were before"
- vanessa redgrave
“It was about harvesting what would wither on the vine and using our ingenuity to present it”
“Andrew Lloyd Webber asked why people could sit by each other on planes, but not at ‘Phantom’”