Judi Dench has warned that theatres that have been closed because of coronavirus may not reopen in her lifetime.
The actor was speaking to Channel 4 about the impact Covid-19 has had on the theatre industry, and said the sector needed a big cash injection to save it.
“We imagine that this is a temporary thing, that this is happening just now and that when the pandemic passes it’s all going to go back to normal. Well it will, maybe, for some people, but it certainly won’t for all of us working in theatre,” she said.
When asked if she thought theatre was facing an existential risk, she said she thought it was.
“If the theatres now close, I don’t know when we are going to get them back. We need a big injection I am afraid and I hope at some point we are going to get it,” she said, warning that social distancing in theatres would not work.
“It does not just affect the public, it affects all of us, not just actors. It affects the crew, the people who make wigs, the people who dress us, the stage doorman, [people in] lighting. Every single person - everybody is affected and none of us have any security or knowledge as to when it will come back,” she said.
She added: “When you suddenly hear… the Old Vic is in trouble and the Nuffield in Southampton is in trouble and Leicester Haymarket - this is what we rely on and it’s a desperate feeling. Will they ever open again? I don’t know. Certainly I am sure not in my lifetime. I can’t see how it’s going to recover.”
Dench described the theatre as her passion, and said she could not imagine Britain without its “arts heritage”.