Leading artistic directors are warning that their theatres may only be able to survive until the autumn without a government bailout, with London’s Old Vic admitting it is in a “seriously perilous” position as a result of its ongoing closure.
Matthew Warchus, the Old Vic’s artistic director, told the Guardian that the Covid-19 crisis has left his theatre, which is unfunded, with “a small number of months” to last on existing reserves.
Kwame Kwei-Armah, artistic director of the Young Vic, said its own reserves could keep it going until the autumn.
After that time, without government intervention, “many of us will fall of a cliff”, Kwei-Armah said in an interview with the BBC.
Social distancing is “almost impossible” for theatre, in both financial and practical terms, Kwei-Armah said, acknowledging that even when safe, it would take three months for the Young Vic to be back in full operation.
His potential scenarios for reopening extend until April 2021.
Roy Alexander Weise, co-artistic director of the Royal Exchange in Manchester, told the BBC he is “clinging on for dear life to see what will happen next”, while the Royal Court’s artistic director Vicky Featherstone said expectations of when the building could reopen were constantly shifting.
“We keep coming up with different scenarios for when we could open and how we could open, and we alight on one thing, and then that slips. The closest I can imagine being able to invite a full capacity audiences is around January,” she said.
Any time before that would be too risky for a big production, Featherstone warned, but said the Royal Court was exploring ways it can open for small groups sooner.
She said this could be “something more playful and hopeful, a bit more radical, reckless, for much, much smaller groups of people”.