Friday 20th March 2020 will be a date that sticks in my mind for a very long time. The day that the curtain came down on the theatre and entertainment industry. It’s not forever, but it is long enough to make a huge impact on our industry and everyone who works within it. This makes me incredibly emotional.
These closures are absolutely necessary. But sadly, they have thrown the entertainment industry into utter chaos. Every single individual involved within theatre is now at risk. Not only are their worlds being turned upside down and their dreams squashed, but they are also losing pay and potentially their jobs. All of which can have a huge detrimental effect on an individual. We need to look after our artists and our arts community now more than ever.
Theatres are also in real jeopardy. Guardian Stage Editor, Chris Wiegand wrote in a recent piece, “Advance ticket sales at theatres around the UK have plummeted 92% in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.”
This will of course have a huge impact on theatre’s cashflow, with ticket revenue being the main source of income. To help get back some of the money, some theatres are asking those with tickets to cancelled shows to donate the cost of their tickets back to the theatre to help keep it running.
In a recent piece in the Evening Standard online, owners of Nimax Theatre (six vintage West End playhouses including Palace, Lyric, Apollo) said: “If my theatres are closed for three months, it will cost me £2.5m, with no money coming in.” Running a theatre is not cheap.
In America, I have read, some theatres are going about things in a different way. A large regional theatre asked playwright and two times Pulitzer prize winner, Lynn Nottage, to return advance payments for a play that will no longer run. She of course lost a huge sum – “probably been the majority of her income for the year” – through no fault of her own. I haven’t seen this happen within the UK, yet.
Other theatres within the UK that have no funding or additional subsidies, are setting up fundraising initiatives. One includes The Chipping Norton Theatre in the Cotswolds, which has set up the campaign ‘Head above Water’ to help save this small, but much-loved theatre.
For these smaller, local theatres, there is the sad chance that this unexpected closure is going to hit them harder and potentially shut them down for good. We must not let this happen.
What can we do to support our artists and theatres during this lockdown? Well, while we have been self-isolating, you may have seen many actors, playwrights, musicians etc taking to social media to entertain us with their incredible skills. Support them by continuing to watch their streams. Like their posts, share them, tell your friends and family know about them. Help get our arts community in front of everyone you know, so that they can continue with their passion - even if it is through a different medium - and potentially have greater opportunities when the theatre lights are switched back on.
Theatres are also providing us with many fantastic performances to stream for free into our living rooms. This is a brilliant way of giving people the opportunity of seeing shows that they might not normally have watched at the theatre. It also opens theatre up to brand new audiences - those who have never been or don’t go to the theatre for one reason or another, and also children.
While children are off school for the foreseeable future, now is a perfect time to introduce them to great performances and get them involved in our amazing industry.
The Guardian have shared a list of shows that are online now or coming soon:
Watching a theatre performance on a device obviously doesn’t do it justice, but if it can create a spark in someone and a desire to see theatre in real life, it will certainly help theatres get back on their feet.
If you are watching a show, why not make a donation to the theatre producing it? Any amount you can give, I am positive the theatre will be extremely grateful.
We are in unprecedented times, but we must find the positive in all of this and use it to help the industry recover. Start now, and the shows will go on.
The Stage has put together a page on its website that gives breaking news and live updates as the theatre industry responds to the Coronovirus, which you may wish to follow