Oliver Dowden’s roadmap basically means that if you take the M20 from Folkestone, then join the M25, circle London, join the M1 then veer across Manchester to the M60, then go on to the M6 and the A74, before turning on to the M74, then following this right on to the M8 between Glasgow and Edinburgh, and then finally join the M90 to Perth, every theatre you drive past, from the start of your journey south all the way up to Scotland, is doomed.
Yes that’s it my dear, his five-plan roadmap means absolutely nothing. And that is being polite.
I hate to get political – that’s not what my article is about, my dear. But – even with the recent £1.57 billion announcement – me and my Jean Valjean teddy are worried. We don’t need condescending tips and pointers about how best to proceed – we need firm dates.
It is wonderful that Oliver and his friend Dishy Rishi have now given us emergency investment, but we still need help to get theatres to reopen. And we need it now.
Theatres up and down the country are considering cancelling Christmas shows, with some having even made that dreadful decision already. This is disastrous. The revenue from pantomimes and Christmas shows is often the thing that allows theatres to survive for the rest of the year. It is not simply another production, it is the production. And the fact that we are not even being given an approximate date of reopening is unforgivable.
Social distancing in theatres will be hard, but at least give us a chance to try
Last Saturday, pubs reopened, driving lessons could begin again, and restaurants started serving their favourite cheese boards. Yet theatres still aren’t even allowed to put their cheesiest actors on stage. And this baffles me.
Yes, social distancing in theatres will be hard, but at least give us a chance to try. By giving us no clear indication of the way forward, we are simply left to plan our worst-case scenarios.
I applaud all the ingenious companies out there that are putting together drive-in events (which is truly brilliant), and also those who are asking OAP actors to attempt roles previously played by Macaulay Culkin (Patrick Stewart as Annie sounds marvellous).
I also applaud the foresight of companies aiming to open their venues simply to give the community somewhere to sit and have coffee. But this is not cost-effective for most theatres – and will leave an even bigger hole in our pockets.
So, all I would say to Oliver is: thanks for the cash, it is greatly appreciated and will keep me in Dom for a few months yet, but it will mean very little until we know when we can put bums back on seats across the country.
Please, let’s stop the following being what our youngest will say in years to come: “Do you remember theatres? That Wetherspoons over there used to be one.”
This week’s question was submitted anonymously. Send questions to your dear agony aunt via Twitter @westendproducer