It has been an incredibly exciting few weeks for indoor theatre. I feel like we are finally getting some traction, and we as an industry are starting to move forward.
In just the last week it has been announced that more theatres are reopening as soon as next month, with stellar performances in the pipeline.
We have heard a great deal from one man in particular - Lord Lloyd Webber - who, it seems, is at the forefront of theatres reopening. But that is just not the case.
Many theatres owners, producers, artists and more have all been working tirelessly behind the scenes to try and make things happen. For some theatres it is just not possible to open, but for others, we are now starting to see their hard work pay off.
In late August, Sleepless the Musical, opened to a socially distanced audience at the Troubadour, Wembley. Producer Michael Rose has said re-opening the show had been “difficult, challenging and costly”. But they made it to stage, and it has been a huge success.
Southwark Playhouse is reopening later this month with ‘The Last Five Years’ which has just had it run extended due to popular demand! The Royal Court will reopen in November with ‘Living Newspaper’ - which will be performed live around the building by artists. Something that sounds very intriguing.
But the big news is that Nimax’s theatres have just announced they will be re-opening all ‘six of the finest entertainment venues in the heart of London's West End’. The Apollo will reopen first in October with Ex Doctor, Adam Kay and his one man show ‘This is Going to Hurt’. Opening night is only available to a very special audience - NHS staff. ‘There’s something about Jamie’ will follow on 12th November.
On the 14th November, the Lyric Theatre will be opening with the return of the incredible ‘Six the Musical’. This is one musical that writers Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss have been fighting for its return to the stage.
The musical was due to tour around the UK in August for a series of Drive in Concert’s, but was cancelled by organisers, Live Nation Entertainment, due to high levels of Coronavirus in parts of the country. Several artists from Six performed songs from the show at an outside event earlier this month, which went down a storm with fans.
As the first musical to open on the West End, and also due to tour next month, the producers of Six – Kenny Wax, Wendy and Andy Barnes and George Stiles - said that the tour and West End run would “give work to 100 or so actors, musicians, technicians, stage managers, production managers, costume makers, marketing, press, ticketing and office staff”. They are aware that the show won’t be financially viable, but “they hoped to rebuild audience confidence”.
The remaining Nimax theatres - Duchess, Garrick, Palace and Vaudeville will follow, with well-known shows including Magic Goes Wrong and The Play that Goes Wrong. Bigger productions such as, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, will return when theatres are once again a full capacity.
With all these incredible and diverse productions, it’s hard to believe that Nimax is the smallest theatre group in the West End. They may have the lowest overheads, but they are the one’s taking the biggest leap.
In an interview with The Stage, Nica Burns said that the thing that has driven her to at least try to reopen is: "the cost of redundancy for everybody is really high, so I thought: ‘Why I am not spending what I would have spent on unemployment to support employment?’”
Opening up her theatres would bring in around 355 jobs for staff and freelancers both onstage and off.
Nica has also said that reopening will mean they are “able to save the jobs of Nimax’s experienced, highly skilled and valued full time theatre staff teams as well as central management staff teams”.
This right here, is fantastic for our industry and it’s having a hugely positive impact on not only our people, but also theatre fans. Nimax and all the other theatres and producers who are pushing the arts forward, are the ones who should be getting the financially backing, the support and also the media coverage that they absolutely deserve.
We don’t need to do trial after trial. This theatre group are taking all the necessary health precautions and following all government guidelines to ensure that they are keeping their artists, staff and audience safe. If you want to bring the arts back, you have to start somewhere.
Outside theatre has proven extremely popular too since its reopening on 11 July, with theatre goers just desperate for some kind of escapism. As well as the well-known outdoor theatres reopening such as Regents Park and The Minack, more local to us – The Arches Theatre in Clifton Reynes near Olney - opened its gates in early August with a whole programme of diverse theatre. From The Comedy of Errors and ‘Allo ‘Allo to family pantomimes and West End musical theatre stars, it was a venue in high demand this summer from both artists and theatre goers.
It was very important to The Arches team to be able to support artists at a time when they need it most, so they extended their programme of live theatre to help as many local and professional theatre troupes/performers as possible.
I think this sentiment rings true for many. It is about supporting each other within our industry and helping each other back up on our feet. We must remember that it is not only just one white male leading the pack to reopen theatre - it’s hundreds of us from all over the country, not just in the West End.
When theatres reopen, we must make sure we play our part and support these artists, producers, those on stage and off, anyway we can. If these theatres are willing to take this huge leap for the future of our industry, I am going to be with them. Are you?