Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum Theatre has warned it will run out of money by November unless it starts making redundancies now, as it confirms the venue will be dark until 2021.
The Lyceum closed on March 16 in line with most other UK theatres, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It said it has already lost £700,000 in income while furloughing many of its staff.
It said Scottish government indications that social distancing measures would remain until the end of the year at the earliest leave it facing an extended period without the opportunity to earn income.
As a result, it has postponed all remaining performances and events in 2020. Its Christmas show, The Snow Queen, has also been postponed.
In anticipation of the UK government’s furlough scheme winding down, the theatre has confirmed it has started negotiations with BECTU and Equity and has given notice to all staff that there is a risk of redundancy.
A statement from the theatre said its financial projections show that “without significant intervention, the Lyceum will run out of funds in November 2020”.
It added: “The theatre’s board have reached the sad but inevitable conclusion that they must act now to protect the future of the theatre. This week theatre management contacted unions and staff to inform them of possible redundancies and will be working closely with them to minimise job losses as far as possible in consultations starting today. All posts are under review with significant cost savings required.”
However, BECTU is arguing that redundancies are unnecessary while the government furlough scheme is still active, and that there is "no imperative for them to get rid of staff – or so many staff – at this point in time".
Ben Jeffries, director of communications, told The Stage: "All roles within the company have been notified that they are at risk of redundancy. Just for avoidance of doubt, this includes joint chief executives David Greig and Mike Griffith and senior management as well as front-line staff.
"Not everyone will go. Some roles will be retained during ’hibernation’ but how these roles will be filled and the final number of job losses will not be known until consultations with staff and the unions are complete."
Artistic director David Greig described the current situation as "unprecedented and devastating".
He said: "Very sadly, with our principal income stream removed during this epidemic, the stark choice we face is between a redundancy process now to reduce our expenditure, or total closure before Christmas – an alternative that would leave the Lyceum shut long after the pandemic has passed.
"Entering this period of hibernation will allow us to conserve the limited resource we have through the dark winter of Covid-19 and emerge, hopefully in the spring, with enough capacity to make theatre again with the brilliant theatremakers of Scotland for the people of Edinburgh."
Paul McManus, Scottish organiser for BECTU, confirmed that the union has had initial talks with the Lyceum’s management as well as funders Creative Scotland and Edinburgh City Council.
McManus told the Stage: "We are extremely disappointed by the approach taken by the Lyceum management. We think this action is unnecessary. There is no imperative for them to get rid of staff – or so many staff – at this point in time.
"Both the London and the Scottish governments have put in place mechanisms to keep people in work. Until or unless these have been withdrawn, then there is no need for any theatre employee to be made redundant. We feel the Lyceum management is potentially jeopardising future funding by its premature actions."