London theatres such as the National Theatre and Bush Theatre are amongst those cancelling performances this evening, as UK theatres react to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
In a briefing from the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson said “now is the time” for people to “stop non-essential contact with others and to stop all unnecessary travel”.
“We need people to start working from home where they possibly can. And you should avoid pubs, clubs, theatres and other such social venues,” he said.
As the speech was underway, the Royal Court tweeted to announce that the theatre’s core mission of “creating theatre and inviting the public in to share in it” no longer seems viable.
“Therefore, in consultation with our staff, writers and current companies we have taken the difficult but ultimately inevitable decision to cease performances and rehearsals as of today. We will also be postponing our spring work during these difficult months. Over the coming weeks we will remodel the postponed work into our future programme.”
The theatre was due to enter its final week of performances of Shoe Lady, starring The IT Crowd’s Katherine Parkinson.
Elsewhere, the National Theatre has cancelled all performances from this evening, including tonight’s showing of The Visit.
“We’re very sorry for the disruption, and will be in touch with ticket holders beginning tomorrow, [Tuesday] 17 March. More details to follow,” they said.
The Bush Theatre is also amongst those affected, saying it will be cancelling all remaining performances of both The High Table and Collapsible from this evening.
“If you are a ticket holder for the cancelled performances, our Box Office team will be in contact within the next 48hrs to manage your booking. We’re a small team so please bear with us,” they tweeted.
Meanwhile the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre has released a statement to say that all of their venues have closed “in light of official government advice”.
“They will remain closed until further notice and will re-open when possible, following government recommendations.
“Your box office/retailer from whom you bought your tickets will be in contact with regards to refunds and exchanges,” the statement reads.
These announcements follow decisions taken yesterday by theatres such as the Arcola, Young Vic and Old Vic theatres, who have all cancelled performances of current productions and events.
Update: Theatre professionals this evening have criticised the Government’s for advising members of the public avoiding the theatre, as a lack of a shutdown means theatres cannot claim money from their insurers.
Patrick Greacy, a theatre producer behind shows such as Leopaldstadt and Uncle Vanya, said Boris Johnson “doomed the entire industry by telling people not to attend the theatre.
“By not enforcing a shutdown, production insurance will not apply so producers and shows will go bankrupt, and tens of thousands of people will be without pay.”
Elsewhere, playwright James Graham, whose stage play Quiz will soon have a TV adaptation, said on Twitter: “Closing theatres may save lives. Good.
“So Boris Johnson, just Say The Words, close them, & save thousands of livelihoods too.
“You’ve told people to stay away from our industry. But not shut it down.
“No shutdown no insurance. No insurance no survival.
“Give us a fighting chance, dammit,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Creative Industry Federation has described today’s advice as “a crippling blow to the UK’s creative industries”.
The organisation said in a statement: “As the social distancing measures announced this afternoon are only advisory, rather than an outright ban, we are deeply concerned that creative organisations and cultural spaces will find they are unable to claim compensation for the huge losses they will experience as a result of COVID-19.
“Public safety remains the top priority for everyone in the creative sector. However, these measures have the potential to devastate the UK’s theatres, museums, cinemas, venues and other cultural spaces reliant on audiences, visitors and participation, as well as the huge array of creators and freelancers who work within these industries.
“For the sake of our £111.7 billion creative industries, it is vital that government puts in place support to ensure that our world-leading creative sector is able to survive COVID-19.”
Update: Chancellor Rishi Sunak today addressed concerns raised about the impact on theatres, saying in a speech at Downing Street that “for those businesses which do have a policy that covers pandemics, the government’s action is sufficient and will allow businesses to make an insurance claim against their policy”.
He also went on to add that many businesses in the leisure industry don’t have insurance, saying that the Government “will go further”.
He said: “I announced last week that for businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors, with a rateable value of less than £51,000, they will pay no business rates this year.
“Today, I can go further and provide those businesses with an additional cash grant of up to £25,000 per business – to help bridge through this period.
“Additionally, I also am today extending the business rates holiday to all businesses in those sectors, irrespective of their rateable value.
“That means every single shop, pub, theatre, music venue, restaurant – and any other business in the retail, hospitality or leisure sector – will pay no business rates whatsoever for 12 months, and if they have a rateable value of less than £51,000, they can now get a cash grant as well.”
Update: The 2020 Olivier Awards will no longer be taking place at Royal Albert Hall on 5 April, it has been announced.
The Olivier Awards tweeted: “Following the government’s new advice on social distancing yesterday and the subsequent closing of many theatres and public venues, we no longer feel that it is feasible to host the ceremony that we had planned to deliver.
“We are working through plans on how to properly honour and announce this year’s winners, and will release further information soon.”
Current theatre announcements (updated 20 March, 14:00):
- Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre: SOLT and UK Theatres have closed in light of government advice. They remain closed “until further notice and will re-open when possible”. As of 5 May, all performances are cancelled up to and including 28 June.
- Delfont Mackintosh Theatres: All performances across all theatres have been cancelled until 31 May. Waitress at the Adelphi Theatre has now announced the end of its run.
- ALW Theatres: All performances are cancelled until 31 May. The team behind Waitress has announced that the production has now closed, with it being “unlikely that the diner will reopen once this period of uncertainty is over”.
- Ambassador Theatre Group: Venues are suspended with immediate effect.
- National Theatre: The theatre is closed until 30 June. A selection of National Theatre shows will be streamed live every Thursday on YouTube at 7pm from April, including One Man, Two Guvnors (starring James Corden) and Twelfth Night (featuring Tamsin Greig). Each show will also be available on demand for seven days.
- The Old Vic: Endgame closes two weeks early. 4000 Miles is postponed, with the theatre closed temporarily. Bookings for the show will be honoured and more details about the new performance dates will be shared soon.
- The Young Vic: All remaining performances of Nora are cancelled. Upcoming productions of Orfeus and Conundrum have been postponed.
- Arcola Theatre: Suspending all public performances until further notice.
- Turbine Theatre: Performances cancelled until 18 April.
- Donmar Warehouse: Remaining performances of Far Away cancelled. Upcoming productions of Donmar Lates, In the Blood and The Contingency Plan have been postponed.
- Park Theatre: Closed for an estimated six weeks due to “health and safety reasons”.
- Lyric Theatre Hammersmith: Tonight’s performance of Love, Love, Love has been cancelled. Further updates with regards to refunds and future performances will be issued “in due course”.
- Bush Theatre: All remaining performances of Collapsible and The High Table cancelled. The run of Level Up has been postponed.
- Royal Court Theatre: Ceasing performances and rehearsals as of 16 March.
- VAULT Festival: All future events and performances taking place during the final week of VAULT Festival will not happen.
- Bunker Theatre: Morgan and Abi’s Power Share has been postponed.
- Bridge Theatre: Remaining performances of I Remember It Well and The Southbury Child are cancelled. They say they’ll return for their next production, The Book of Dust – La Belle Sauvage, in July.
- Menier Chocolate Factory: All performances of Indecent suspended up to and including 12 April’s showing.
- Theatre Royal, Stratford East: All remaining performances of I Think We Are Alone at Theatre Royal Stratford East are cancelled. Frantic Assembly are “liaising with other tour venues about future performances”.
- Trafalgar Studios: The venue has closed until further notice. Remaining performances of On Blueberry Hill and One Jewish Boy are cancelled, as well as the planned run of Shook.
- Boulevard Theatre: Doors closed with immediate effect. All performances “for the foreseeable future” are postponed.
- Soho Theatre: Suspending programming and closing Soho Theatre and Soho Theatre Bar to the public.
- Shakespeare’s Globe: Performances in the Globe Theatre and Sam Wanamaker Playhouse are cancelled until further notice.
- Barbican Theatre: Building is fully closed, with its temporary closure now extended to 30 June with all events and performances up to this date being cancelled or postponed.
- Almeida Theatre: Theatre is temporarily closed. The first three weeks of “Daddy” from 30 March to 18 April have been cancelled and they “anticipate that it may be necessary to postpone both “Daddy” and The House of Shades until a time in which it is safe to resume rehearsals and performances”.
- Yard Theatre: The Yard Theatre and its two community centres – Hub67 and The Hall – are closed from today. The upcoming New Nordics Festival has been cancelled, their late-night music and events programme has been cancelled until mid-April, their local programme and Yard Young Artists activity is cancelled for the rest of the term and the community centres remain closed for the rest of the week.
- Immersive Gatsby: All performances are cancelled “with immediate effect’. Shows will be cancelled until 28 June and they’re “working to get performances through to December 2020 available for booking to allow for flexible rescheduling. This will be available later this week.”