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West End shows count cost of Holborn fire

The Holborn fire broke out on April 1. Photo: London Fire Brigade
The fire in Holborn, which broke out on April 1. Photo: London Fire Brigade
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West End theatres are facing losses of tens of thousands of pounds following a fire in central London that forced venues to cancel performances over a number of days.

Theatres had no option but to pull performances after the fire in Holborn left many without power, with some unable to reopen for almost a week.

The Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane cancelled matinee performances part way through on April 1 – when the fire broke out – and subsequently cancelled their evening performances.

In total, eight theatres were affected, with all cancelling evening shows on April 1 and several continuing to cancel matinee and evening performances the following day. It is understood that the costs of shows will be covered on insurance but the lost income from ticket sales is not recoverable.

The Woman in Black, at the Fortune Theatre, was forced to cancel an evening performance on April 1, and a matinee the following day.

Tim Wilson, associate producer at PW Productions, which produces The Woman in Black, said: “The costs of both were covered on our insurance, but not the lost income, so it does affect us a fair amount… You could see the flames from the door of the Fortune, so it was a close call both times and we worked closely with Ambassador Theatre Group [which operates the Fortune] to assess the safety of the theatre.”

Matthew Gardiner, business development director for ticketing agent Shows in London, said that an estimated £2 million worth of tickets had been sold for performances that did not take place as a result of the fire.

“The majority of affected theatres would have been operating at or near to capacity due to the Easter holidays… With well over 30,000 theatregoers affected, the cost to other businesses that depend on the theatres, such as restaurants and bars, will also be high,” he said.

The majority of shows resumed their runs by the evening of April 3, with some – such as Gypsy at the Savoy Theatre and Mamma Mia! at the Novello Theatre – putting generators in place to ensure performances could restart. Mamma Mia! was still using generators as The Stage went to press on April 7.

Sadler’s Wells’ Peacock Theatre, which was due to open English National Ballet’s My First Ballet – Swan Lake on April 2, only resumed shows on April 7 after cancelling 11 performances, all of which the theatre said had sold out.

A statement from Sadler’s Wells said that while power began to return to the area, the Peacock’s proximity to the original fire meant that the theatre was cordoned off until authorities confirmed it was safe for the public to return to.

Other shows affected included Beautiful at the Aldwych Theatre and The Play That Goes Wrong at the Duchess Theatre.

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