For the latest updates about coronavirus and its impacts on the theatre industry, click here. Below are the updates from The Stage up until the end of April.
17.15: Gecko launches online teaching platform
Physical theatre company Gecko has founded a free online platform for people wishing to study its work.
The Facebook page is described as a place where people interested in the company’s practice can "access resources, ask questions, create discussions and share work".
The page is being monitored by Gecko’s team, who are engaging with discussions and posting new resources. People taking part are also encouraged to share videos of Gecko-inspired work.
It already has members from more than 50 countries, with around half comprising creative practitioners and the other half teachers and higher-education students.
The company has also launched a newsletter and is exploring plans for a virtual conference for teachers on the group.
Out-of-work theatre and event staff volunteering to help the NHS cope during the coronavirus crisis have already delivered thousands of walkie-talkie radios and items of PPE to hospitals across the country, and have built temporary intensive care units and testing centres.
People Powered, a volunteer-led initiative set up last month by lighting designers, is working with NHS Trusts to provide assistance in a range of areas, from infrastructure that will support the increased number of patients and complexity of treating Covid-19, to boosting the health service’s strained supply chain and improving staff welfare.
Plays by writers including Mike Bartlett and EV Crowe that were forced to close early because of the pandemic will be revived on BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4 as part of a festival created by actor Bertie Carvel.
Lockdown Theatre Festival will feature actors including Katherine Parkinson, Rachael Stirling and Nicholas Burns, who will record their lines in isolation, to reimagine their performances for special radio versions of the plays.
Andrew Lloyd Webber has chosen British actor and soprano Kit Salter-Kay as the winner of an online talent competition.
Salter-Kay was one of more than 1,500 entries to a competition Lloyd Webber launched, which called on members of the public to create a new cadenza for the song Think of Me, from The Phantom of the Opera.
Every play programmed by London’s Royal Court before the lockdown will be staged when the venue is able to reopen, with artistic director Vicky Featherstone vowing not to “cancel any of our work”.
Featherstone made the commitment in an email sent to supporters of the venue, in which she revealed that 69% of people who had booked to see shows had either donated the money to the theatre or accepted credit to see their chosen show another time.
A fund offering emergency grants to performers and creative practitioners in Northern Ireland has been established by the country’s Arts Council.
Individuals will be able to apply for up to £5,000 from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Artists Emergency Programme.
Organisations including the Society of London Theatre and the Association of British Theatre Technicians have launched a campaign to fight for the survival of the events sector through the Covid-19 crisis.
The #EventsForTheFuture campaign is calling on everyone in the events and entertainment industry to petition their local MPs for more government support to safeguard the future of businesses and livelihoods in the sector.
Guildford School of Acting is to hold a virtual showcase for its theatre production graduates who had an exhibition of their work cancelled due to Covid-19.
Umbrella charity Acting for Others has received a £50,000 donation from the Noël Coward Foundation to mark the centenary of the playwright’s first produced play.
Acting for Others is made up of 14 member charities, however the foundation’s grant will be split between the Actors’ Children’s Trust and the Royal Theatrical Fund, specifically to support theatre workers in "extraordinarily difficult circumstances" as a result of Covid-19.
Fewer risks could be taken on new and challenging work as a result of the fallout from coronavirus, artistic directors and actors have warned, amid concerns that producers will turn to light-hearted, commercially driven shows to help profits.
The issue was raised by artistic directors including Derby Theatre’s Sarah Brigham, with actors also sharing their fears for the knock-on effects of a more risk-averse industry.
15:15: Camden’s Roundhouse announces series of roundtable discussions
Camden’s Roundhouse has announced a series of digital roundtable discussions for people working in the creative industries.
The discussions form part of a campaign from the organisation called Round Your House, which aims to connect with people at home during lockdown.
The first discussion, exploring what a sustainable industry looks like, will take place on Mary 12 with artistic director of the Bunker Theatre, Chris Sonnex.
On May 26, there will be a roundtable discussion with artist Travis Alabanza, while artist Koko Brown and Roundhouse producers will host one on June 9 and spoken word artist Raymond Antrobus will discuss accessibility on June 23.
The talks can be accessed via the Roundhouse website.
Dance Umbrella has announced the cancellation of its October 2020 festival for the first time in the event’s 42 year history due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The contemporary dance and performance event usually takes place annually in London.
English National Opera is launching a drive-in opera series, allowing audiences to watch performances from their cars.
Income for theatres in Wales and Northern Ireland has fallen faster than any other area of the UK in the first month of theatre closures, new data has revealed.
Revenue across Wales and Northern Ireland plummeted by 97% between March 17 and April 22, with Scotland’s venues losing 96% of income and those in England losing 90%.
A Liberal Democrat MP has launched a campaign calling on the chancellor to better support people working in the arts during the Covid-19 pandemic, and help those excluded from government income schemes.
Jamie Stone, the Scottish Lib Dem MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, has tabled a parliamentary motion highlighting the difficulties faced by the creative sector, and is arguing that the government has failed to address loopholes that disadvantage creative freelancers.
Musical directors from shows including Six and Hamilton will perform numbers from their shows, as part of an online concert to raise money for Acting for Others and the NHS.
Musical Marathon will include contributions from more than 20 musical directors including Gareth Valentine, who worked on shows including The Pajama Game and City of Angels, as well as Katy Richardson, the musical director of Six.
Organisations spanning the creative industries are coming together to call for urgent government support during the coronavirus crisis, as part of a major new campaign to raise awareness of the sector’s importance.
The Royal Shakespeare Company has released what it is describing as the largest ever digital celebration of the playwright’s work by audiences.
National Theatre director Rufus Norris has warned that the organisation is “haemorrhaging money” while it is forced to remain closed, arguing that the industry may need aggressive government support if it is to survive the coronavirus crisis.
London’s h Club is offering free online memberships to anyone working in the creative industries for the duration of the Covid-19 lockdown period.
An initiative started by theatremakers Bryony Kimmings and Brian Lobel to support artists struggling as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic distributed more than £30,000 of support in March.
The project, called #GigAid, is an emergency financial lifeline for artists whose projects have been cancelled as a result of the coronavirus and for whom gigs are their main source of income.
Producers streaming shows online are being urged to ensure a proportion of any income generated is given to the makers of the work.
Union Equity, which is behind the plea, has also asked theatremakers to get in contact if they believe that their consent has not been sought for an online broadcast of a show – whether it is free or making money.
A new website has been launched that aims to give the theatre industry the tools it needs to begin rebuilding after lockdown ends.
Devised by the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre, the site - theatremeansbusiness.info - will feature live and pre-recorded webinars aimed at preparing the sector for the challenges of reopening.
Hugh Bonneville, Adrian Lester and Billie Piper are backing an initiative to help children engage with Shakespeare during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Education organisation the Primary Shakespeare Company, which sends performers into primary schools to explore Shakespeare’s plays with pupils, is behind the Shakespeare at Home campaign.
The Royal Opera House has launched a virtual classroom, featuring creative home-learning activities for children.
Backed by former Royal Ballet principal Darcey Bussell, the free programme is intended for children and young people of any age and covers music, dance and design.
Joanna Lumley is backing a fundraising campaign for the Actors Centre in London, which has warned its future is under threat due to the Covid-19 crisis.
The original West End cast of Dreamgirls has reunited online to perform One Night Only to raise money for charity. Composer Henry Krieger, Amber Riley and other cast members have got back together online to perform the song from their homes during lockdown.
16.00: Creative Scotland confirms £2m extra funding for freelancers
Creative Scotland is set to give out an additional £2 million in relief to help the country’s artists and freelancers cope during the coronavirus outbreak.
The Scottish government is providing £1 million, with a further £1 million from the Freelands Foundation.
The Royal Shakespeare Company, Arts Council England and the organisers of Coventry City of Culture 2021 are backing an initiative to help the West Midlands’ arts sector recover from the coronavirus crisis.
Led by sector-support organisation Culture Central, the newly created West Midlands Culture Response Unit will develop a plan for arts organisations across the region to work together over at least the next six months, as the impacts of the pandemic hit.
Andrew Lloyd Webber has launched an online contest to make up a cadenza that will be performed in The Phantom of the Opera.
He said the winner’s creation would be performed by the character of Christine when the show reopens, once lockdown measures are lifted.
Northern Ireland’s arts sector has already lost nearly £4 million of income due to the impact of Covid-19, as the scale of the crisis becomes clear.
According to a survey from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, organisations anticipate losing an average of about £36,700 each in the three-month period between March and May as a result of the pandemic.
As the 25th-anniversary production of The Phantom of the Opera – filmed live at the Royal Albert Hall – is about to be streamed online for free, Ramin Karimloo tells Matthew Hemley about appearing in the musical and why digital productions are so important right now...
More than 1,000 performances in rural communities have already been cancelled as a result of coronavirus, leaving many organisations at risk of closure after the pandemic ends.
According to the National Rural Touring Forum, which develops and advocates for 30 rural touring schemes across the UK, the cancelled performances will result in a financial hit of nearly £300,000 and will have a “huge” impact on the health of performance for rural communities in future.
Old Vic artistic director Matthew Warchus has revealed plans to reopen the venue in November, but has warned that “a critical and major” fundraising campaign will be needed to keep the theatre running as it does.
Bristol Old Vic is launching a digital theatre platform for its audiences and artists during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Called Bristol Old Vic at Home, the platform aims to replicate three strands of the theatre’s programme; its artistic output, talent development work and engagement department.
West London venue the Playground Theatre has begun to make free meals for local elderly and vulnerable people while its doors are closed to the public.
The Playground Theatre Cafe Covid-19 Food Relief Campaign is run by Rima Sams and her son, Mars. Together with volunteers they are making about 500 meals a week and giving them to people who need them most, including the elderly and vulnerable people who are self-isolating.
Top UK drama schools including RADA and Arts Educational Schools London have shifted all teaching online at least until September.
The move comes as the schools affirm their commitment to providing “world-leading performance and technical training” despite the challenges posed by coronavirus.
A tribunal being brought against Curve Theatre in Leicester by Seyi Omooba – the performer removed from a production of The Color Purple last year over anti-gay comments – has been postponed because of the ongoing pandemic.
Omooba’s case had been due to be heard in central London beginning at the end of the month, with a hearing that was expected to last a week.
The West End transfer of Laura Wade’s The Watsons has been cancelled due to the impact of the coronavirus shutdown, producers have confirmed.
The play, based on Jane Austen’s unfinished novel of the same name, had been due to begin a run at the Harold Pinter Theatre on June 1, following runs at Chichester Festival Theatre and the Menier Chocolate Factory.
They said they hoped to remount the show at a later date.
Actors are being invited to record love-themed monologues as part of an initiative by Tamasha theatre company to boost the morale of frontline NHS staff during the coronavirus pandemic.
Supported by Equity, the #NHSLove campaign aims to share uplifting messages through Twitter, which NHS workers will be able to dip into whenever they can.
The Royal Shakespeare Company has launched what it is describing as the largest ever celebration of the playwright’s work by audiences.
Backed by actors including David Tennant and Paapa Essiedu, the Royal Shakespeare Community invites audiences from across the globe to keep Shakespeare’s work alive during the global shutdown, and runs alongside the RSC’s previously announced programme of digital screenings and educational resources.
Almost eight out of 10 receiving theatres across the UK will need further government support to survive if lockdown measures continue beyond May, according to a new survey.
Conducted by the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre, the survey lays bare the stark challenges venues and producers are facing as theatres continue to remain dark, having been closed on March 16, and raises serious concerns about the financial problems they are up against.
English National Opera’s in-house costume department has begun making scrubs for the NHS while the company’s shows are on hold.
Costume staff from the London opera house are raising money for materials to sew new sets of scrubs for frontline healthcare workers who are fighting coronavirus.
Coventry City of Culture has revealed the steps it has taken to support the arts during the coronavirus pandemic, including confirming £100,000 of support for cultural organisations across the city to continue to operate and plan for 2021.
Andrew Lloyd Webber has warned that theatres are likely to remain closed until the end of September.
He said forecasts that venues may be able to reopen in June were “ridiculous”.
Twenty international circus artists are currently stuck in the UK after their tour was cancelled due to the coronavirus.
The artists had been performing with Zippos Circus in a show called Nomad, which was postponed when theatres across the UK went dark on March 16.
A theatre in north Wales has been transformed into a temporary hospital for Covid-19 patients.
Venue Cymru in Llandudno is providing an additional 350 beds for patients who have respiratory problems as a result of the virus.
The Royal Shakespeare Company’s Swan Theatre will remain closed until the autumn due to the financial impact of the coronavirus crisis, it has confirmed.
It comes as the Stratford-upon-Avon company admits it had to make “difficult decisions” in order to ensure its survival, including furloughing most of its staff.
A fortnightly writing competition has been launched to find new short plays that will be released as podcasts throughout the lockdown period.
Produced by theatre company Bitter Pill, the Painkiller Project is offering a £150 prize for each winning play, with one chosen every two weeks.
Arts organisations across Greater Manchester – including the Royal Exchange Theatre, Home and the Lowry – have joined together to support freelances during the Covid-19 outbreak.
GM Artist Hub is a collaboration between a group of more than 10 organisations in the region and will provide artists with opportunities to sign up for sessions with producers and directors to explore the “challenges, ideas and opportunities” open to them during the pandemic.
Headlong’s isolation-inspired new-writing project has announced a partnership with the BBC, which will broadcast the digital plays as part of its quarantine offering.
Unprecedented: Real Time Theatre from a State of Isolation was announced last month as a collaboration between the theatre company and Century Films.
A parliamentary inquiry has been launched into the impact of Covid-19 on the culture sector, with the industry being called upon to submit evidence.
The cross-party Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee will consider both the immediate and long-term effects of coronavirus on all sectors that fall under its remit.
It will also explore how the coronavirus-related social and financial measures are affecting these industries.
The Stage Management Association has launched a buddy scheme for stage managers in isolation, to bring together people who are unable to work.
It is one of several digital plans from the organisation, which also include Zoom meet-ups and online training sessions.
Original Mamma Mia! stars have reunited to make a video for a former cast member who is battling Covid-19 in hospital.
Performers including Caroline Sheen, Melissa Jacques and Siobhan McCarthy performed Thank You for the Music in a YouTube video for Neal Wright, who was the original Pepper in the musical.
Artrix arts centre in Bromsgrove is to close permanently because of the financial impact of coronavirus.
The Worcestershire organisation stopped receiving regular council funding in 2018/19 and said it had been seeking new financial investment, but admitted that its “fragile recovery” had been rendered impossible by Covid-19.
BECTU has reached an agreement with UK Theatre and the Society of London Theatre over the use of the government’s job retention scheme.
The union, which represents the off-stage theatre workforce, had been seeking reassurance from SOLT and UK Theatre that employers would maximise the job retention scheme, allowing employees on the Pay as you Earn system to be put on leave but still receive 80% of their salary or up to £2,500 a month paid for by the government.
National Theatre Wales is partnering with Welsh-language theatre company Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru and Cardiff’s Sherman Theatre on an initiative aiming to re-imagine live performance during lockdown.
Network is described as a digital programme of opportunities for theatremakers, allowing them to connect with each other and audiences, and provide “crucial employment opportunities”.
Artistic directors have expressed fears that theatre audiences may be hesitant to return to public gatherings once lockdown rules are relaxed.
Venues have been thrown into uncertainty after last month’s closure orders forced theatres to shut their doors and immediately suspend performances with no idea when they may be able to reopen.
Drama school graduates missing out on final-year performances because of coronavirus will be able to showcase themselves online as part of a new initiative.
Showcase 2020, a website launched by actors Olivia Beardsley and Isaac Stanmore, allows performers to be listed by their school and course, and to upload their details, Spotlight link and a showcase video.
A series of pay agreements to support performers and stage managers during the period of theatre closures has been agreed with union Equity.
Fixed terms have been negotiated between the union and UK Theatre to cover the subsidised sector. However, no long-term agreement has yet been reached with UK Theatre and the Society of London Theatre to cover those working on commercial contracts in the West End and on tour beyond an initial four-week “holding period”.
West End theatres will not reopen until June at the earliest due to the coronavirus crisis, it has been confirmed.
The Society of London Theatre said all performances would be cancelled until May 31 and venues will “process existing bookings while we wait for further clarity from the government in terms of when we will be able to reopen”.
Two fifths of creative organisations estimate their income has dropped by 100% since the coronavirus outbreak, new data from the Creative Industries Federation has revealed.
The data comes alongside an open letter to the government from CIF, calling for urgent grant support for creative businesses and charities that “fall between the gaps” for existing financial support, to “ensure the UK doesn’t become a cultural wasteland post-Covid-19”.
The producers and costume designer of the forthcoming Sleepless musical have joined forces to help make scrubs for NHS workers fighting coronavirus.
Together with producers Michael Rose and Damien Sanders, Sue Simmerling has donated 800 metres of fabric to the campaign Helping Dress Medics, set up by television costume makers to assist the NHS during the pandemic.
The Rose Theatre in Kingston has launched a fundraising campaign to secure its future, warning that the impact of the enforced closure period would be “financially overwhelming”.
The south-west London venue receives no Arts Council England subsidy, and said that ticket sales – its main source of earned income – are “vital to the theatre’s existence and indeed the financial security of its staff”.
It has launched the #RoseEndures campaign as a result, calling on people to help support its operation while performances are suspended, asking people to make a donation to the theatre in order to safeguard its future and “ensure the livelihoods” of its staff and creative teams.
Oxford Playhouse has revealed a new programme of work to encourage creativity during the coronavirus outbreak, including the launch of a new commissioning fund.
The theatre has rolled out Playhouse Plays On: The Creativity Continues. Its 10 initiatives include urging people to write a play, moving its classes and workshops online, and the formation of a fund to “support artists in creating work designed to be watched by audiences in their own homes”.
The Arts Council of Wales has unveiled its £7 million rescue package to help protect the Welsh cultural sector against the impacts of coronavirus.
Full details of the scheme will be published next week, on April 7, as the funding body affirmed its commitment to the organisations and artists that are most at risk with a multi-million pound resilience fund.
Ambassador Theatre Group has extended closure of its venues to the end of May.
In an update. it said: “Due to the on-going Covid-19 crisis, we are sorry to inform you that all performances at Ambassador Theatre Group venues across the UK have been suspended until May 31.”
It venues had previously been closed until April 26.
More than 200,000 households tuned in live to the first National Theatre at Home screening last night, which also attracted more than £50,000 in donations for the theatre.
Viewing figures for the YouTube stream of One Man, Two Guvnors peaked at 209,000, the National confirmed, with people watching across the UK and from countries including the US, Canada, the Philippines, Israel, Hungary and Spain.
LW Theatres has committed to paying all staff – including those employed on a show-by-show basis – and has confirmed no redundancies are planned while the coronavirus outbreak continues.
It comes as Andrew Lloyd Webber sent an email to staff in which he acknowledged “how very difficult it is to be denied the ability to be together, not only with our theatre community, but more importantly with many of our loved ones” at this time.
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musicals are to be screened on a new YouTube channel called The Shows Must Go On.
The concept is to bring audiences to musicals that have made it to the screen. The series will kick off with the filmed version of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, starring Donny Osmond and Maria Friedman.
New performance dates have been announced for Hairspray at the London Coliseum – after the musical was postponed due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
The production, which stars Michael Ball, Marisha Wallace and Paul Merton, was originally due to begin a 12-week run from April 23.
Now the musical will begin performances on September 1 and run until November 8.
Theatre publisher Nick Hern Books is launching a play text discussion group that will run throughout the coronavirus shutdown, offering one free script each week and Q&As with their writers.
The NHB Playgroup will release one play script for free online each week and invite everyone who reads it to send in a question for the writer, who will then record a Q&A for a podcast released the following week.
Leicester’s Curve is asking children who have taken part in the nationwide Rainbows of Hope campaign to submit their drawings as inspiration for the set of its Christmas production of The Wizard of Oz.
The Actors Centre has announced a week-long festival to provide a platform for graduates who had their showcases cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Curated by Ameena Hamid Productions, the festival will run at the Tristan Bates Theatre from July 6 to 10. There will be two performances each day: one to an invited industry audience and the other to family, friends and public audiences.
Will Attenborough, Stephen Fry and Juliet Stevenson are taking part in a fairytale-inspired campaign called #LoveOverVirus, which forms part of the celebrations for the 15th anniversary of Belarus Free Theatre.
The refugee-led theatre company, co-founded by Natalia Kaliada and Nikolai Khalezin, is also opening up its archive to make 24 stage productions free to watch online.
Harriet Harman is calling on the chancellor to ensure that people working in theatre do not get left behind by the government’s income support plans, arguing that the creative workforce will be disproportionately affected by the coronavirus crisis.
The Labour MP and former shadow culture secretary has written to Rishi Sunak to ask what further measures he is considering to support arts workers, claiming she has been contacted by “a number of deeply anxious constituents working in theatre, TV, film and other creative industries”.
Birmingham Royal Ballet has announced plans to stage an adapted version of The Dying Swan, performed during isolation, as part of the BBC’s Culture in Quarantine programme.
Principal dancer Céline Gittens will perform The Swan from her home, accompanied by principal pianist Jonathan Higgins and cellist Antonio Novais, from BRB’s orchestra, each from their own homes.
Edinburgh Fringe venue operators have pledged to return with renewed purpose in 2021 following the news of this year’s cancellation, as some warn of the impact it could have on their future.
The news was met with sadness by many of the venues that host the fringe’s programme of 4,000 shows, as they are forced to suspend all activity for this year’s event and negotiate cancellations for productions already in development.
Key workers are being urged to share their stories with Theatre Royal Stratford East as part of a virtual play being created by the venue.
No Masks is described as a look at “working on the frontline during the pandemic”.
A new initiative has been set up to assemble teams of artists from across the world to create mini-operas that will be shared online.
Ella Marchment, stage director of the International Opera Awards, is behind the scheme, which is called #OperaHarmony.
Theatres will be able to claim gift aid when audiences agree to donate the cost of their cancelled tickets rather than request a refund, the government has confirmed.
Cultural organisations across the country and of all sizes are appealing to audiences to consider giving the money they spent on tickets to shows that are now cancelled because of coronavirus, as companies face losing significant proportions of their income from the enforced shutdown.
Ambassador Theatre Group has outlined its plans for the period of theatre closures due to the coronavirus – which will see the majority of its staff put on paid leave and the leadership team working without salaries.
The organisation operates 32 venues across the UK, including West End theatres such as the Ambassadors Theatre and Trafalgar Studios and regional theatres including Edinburgh Playhouse and the Liverpool Empire.
Newcastle Theatre Royal chief executive Philip Bernays has postponed his planned retirement so he can “lead the organisation through this difficult time”.
Bernays announced in January he would be retiring at the end of 2020 after 15 years in the post.
Arts Council England has published additional guidance for organisations and individuals needing financial support due to the impact of coronavirus.
ACE’s £160 million rescue plan was announced last week, with three major strands intended for national portfolio organisations, cultural organisations outside the funding body’s main stream and individual artists and creatives.
Nearly half of freelances in the creative industries on the Pay as You Earn system fear they will not qualify for government support for loss of earnings due to coronavirus, a new survey by BECTU has revealed.
As part of its coronavirus job retention scheme, the government announced that businesses can claim up to 80% of wages for employees who are put on paid leave – called furloughing – due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Theatres in Wales that have been forced to close their doors or are facing financial challenges due to coronavirus will be eligible for emergency relief grants thanks to a newly announced fund from the Welsh government.
The £500 million Economic Resilience Fund has been launched to help “plug the gaps” in the support schemes already announced by the UK government.
There has been a “steep increase” in the proportion of tickets bought by theatres’ most loyal customers following the Covid-19 outbreak, new data has revealed.
This is despite analysis showing that the average number of advance daily ticket sales fell by 93% compared to the same 10-day period in March last year, with income down 92%.
Costume makers behind the TV series His Dark Materials have started an initiative to sew scrubs for medics working to fight Covid-19.
The initiative, Helping Dress Medics, has been set up by members of the BBC and HBO series costume department.
Shakespeare’s Globe has unveiled a programme of work to take place while its building is closed, including a new digital series, free on-demand productions and educational content for home schooling.
Digital content made available for audiences will comprise a series of Shakespeare performances, recorded in isolation by artists including Sandi and Jenifer Toksvig and Kathryn Hunter, and a programme of free-to-watch productions via the theatre’s on-demand platform, Globe Player.
London’s Finborough Theatre has warned its future is in danger, as the venue is making a “huge loss” because of its closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A statement from the Finborough said that, even with emergency government support measures for businesses, the venue will make a “huge loss” over the closure period, as it has lost 98% of its income.
Creative Scotland has launched three funding programmes that will provide a total of £11 million of support for people working in the arts who have been affected by the Covid-19 outbreak.
The first of these, the £2 million Creative Scotland Bridging Bursary Fund, will offer one-off bursary payments of between £500 and £2,500 to support freelance workers who have lost earnings due to the cancellation of work.
Arts Council England has moved to allay fears that its recently announced rescue package is likely to lead to “more hardship in the longer term” for freelance theatre workers.
It has now revealed it has an “unallocated sum of £57 million for potential use in 2020/21” from its National Lottery Project Grants budget.
The London production of Waitress has confirmed it will not be returning to the West End once theatres reopen.
The show was due to end its run at the Adelphi Theatre on July 4, but producers said in a statement that they do not believe the show will be able to begin performances again before then.
An emergency fund to help performers, directors and stage managers cope financially until government grants become available has been announced by Equity.
The union has pledged to boost its benevolent fund by £1 million to help its members who have lost work due to coronavirus, and is calling for more donations due to the unprecedented need caused by the crisis.
Composers are being called upon to write a song in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, which will be recorded by musical theatre performers with the proceeds going to charity.
The brainchild of producer Danielle Tarento and actor and producer Paul Wilkins, the initiative, called A Song for Our Time, is seeking an original song to be recorded by West End performers and a virtual choir.
Drama school gradates who completed their studies last summer will need “rapid support” following the chancellor’s newly announced package of measures to help self-employed people financially.
The warning has been made by Society of London Theatre chief executive Julian Bird, who has also urged the government to consider a form of interim payment for self-employed people who will not have access to funding until June.
Workers in the UK theatre sound industry have collectively lost nearly £2 million in income as a result of the coronavirus, according to a survey.
The research by the Association of Sound Designers counted a total loss of £1,943,452 in income across the 249 respondents, largely due to cancelled or postponed events and loss of royalties. This averages at £7,805 per person.
Edinburgh’s King’s Theatre has put the brakes on a long-awaited redevelopment, due to the impact of coronavirus.
The £25 million project, which has been in planning for several years, was due to begin construction in September 2021, completing two years later in time for the 2023 Edinburgh International Festival.
The venue has now confirmed that it has suspended preparations and is looking to begin the works a year later than planned, in September 2022.
Every NHS and care-home worker is being offered £500 worth of free arts courses by City Academy to thank them for their efforts in the fight against the coronavirus.
The London-based arts company is making its full range of short courses – up to a total value of £500 – available to health workers at no cost.
LW Theatres has confirmed that construction work on the Theatre Royal Drury Lane and Gillian Lynne Theatre has ceased until further notice.
A statement from LW, which owns both theatres, said: “Construction on the restoration project at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane ceased today [March 26], apart from essential electrical safety work and security. Construction was also ceased at the Gillian Lynne Theatre.”
National Theatre Live productions will soon be available to watch for free on YouTube under plans for a new digital service from the National Theatre.
National Theatre at Home will stream productions into audience’s homes, in addition to making the theatre’s education collection available remotely while schools are closed.
A skills-sharing database for theatre has been set up to help artists and organisations create work during lockdown.
Set up this week, the database already includes nearly 200 individual offers to help in areas including producing and administration, dramaturgy, marketing and mentoring.
Support being offered includes project planning and grant application help, script reading, graphic design, live streaming and budgeting advice, as well as online dance and movement sessions and coaching classes.
Performers from the UK who are stranded on a cruise ship outside of Miami have described feeling “scared and stressed” as they wait for news of when they they will be flown home.
The Stage understands that, at the time of writing, about 18 performers from the UK and Ireland are being kept on the Norwegian Encore ship, which has not had passengers on it for the past two weeks. The performers were involved in two productions, Kinky Boots and The Choir of Man.
Coventry City of Culture Trust has invested £60,000 into a fund to support individuals and organisations in the arts who are facing hardship following the Covid-19 outbreak.
ITV is to broadcast a special programme celebrating the past 10 years of the Olivier Awards on April 5, the day this year’s ceremony was due to be held.
It comes as it is revealed that organisers of the Olivier Awards are planning to hold a special ceremony in the autumn, to announce this year’s winners.
A new play by David Greig that was due to open at Pitlochry Festival Theatre will now premiere on Radio 3, as part of the BBC’s Culture in Quarantine programme.
Originally commissioned by the venue in association with Edinburgh’s Lyceum Theatre, Greig’s play Adventures With the Painted People is set in Pitlochry two thousand years ago.
Other programming announced for Culture in Quarantine includes BalletBoyz’s Deluxe and six Shakespeare plays from the Royal Shakespeare Company on BBC4.
Theatres and arts organisations have started to make adjustments to accommodate workers who are now juggling caring responsibilities alongside their day jobs during the coronavirus pandemic.
Campaign group Parents and Carers in Performing Arts said its partners were “acknowledging the need to work differently and to guide their staff through this change”.
Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts has launched a digital showcase that will provide agents and casting directors with showreels of graduates while the school is closed.
The drama school said it was determined that Mountview’s third-year students “will not miss out on any opportunities at this important time in their careers”.
International consultancy TRG Arts is offering free resources to help professionals in the creative industries adapt to the Covid-19 crisis.
The organisation is sharing its crisis advice and best practices through a new webinar series called TRG 30, which will be broadcast on LinkedIn.
“In this unprecedented time of uncertainty, our mission to help the arts and culture sector adapt and thrive is more critical than ever,” said TRG Arts chief executive Jill Robinson.
“TRG is here to help organisations with best practices and resources to strategically manage this global crisis so they can continue their role in the cultural health and enrichment of our communities.”
Each webinar will last 30 minutes, taking place once a week on either a Wednesday or a Thursday. The webinars are available to arts professionals in the UK, US, Canada and European Union, with participants encouraged to register here.
Actors Kate McKeown and Anna-Rose Charleton have set up a new online radio station called Quarantine FM, which aims to entertain people who are confined to their homes due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Quarantine FM will broadcast on weekdays between 9am and 9pm.
Arts Council England has unveiled an emergency £160 million response package for the cultural sector to help theatres weather the “massive and unsustainable loss of revenues” they will face amid the coronavirus crisis.
BECTU is urging theatres across the UK to take advantage of the government’s offer to pay employees up to 80% of their salaries during the coronavirus outbreak.
As part of emergency measures to protect jobs during the Covid-19 pandemic, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak last week announced that the government would pay 80% of salaries for businesses, capped at £2,500 per month.
Now BECTU has written to UK Theatre, the Society of London Theatre and Ambassador Theatre Group urging the organisations to confirm they will take up the government’s offer.
More than 50 high-profile actors including David Tennant, Cush Jumbo, Richard E Grant and Romola Garai are backing a petition demanding an income guarantee for people working in the creative industries amid the widespread industry shutdown.
Scottish Opera has repurposed lorries ordinarily used to transport its set to venues in order to help restock supermarkets.
The opera company’s drivers have been using their cabs to help deliver food to Tesco stores in Scotland, as supermarkets face unprecedented demand from shoppers during the coronavirus crisis.
Norwich Theatre Royal’s boss has claimed the venue’s box-office staff is being subjected to an increasing amount of “rude and aggressive behaviour” from customers in the fallout from its temporary closure due to Covid-19.
In an open letter to audiences, chief executive Stephen Crocker said the theatre’s team had been “relentlessly” trying to reschedule dates for postponed shows, but confirmed that it is not yet offering “mass refunds” as an option.
Musicians across the UK have so far lost an estimated £13.9 million in earnings due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, according to new research.
The survey from the Musicians’ Union, which had around 4,100 respondents, found 90% had already been negatively affected by Covid-19 and that job opportunities are down 69% compared to the same time last year.
The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland has launched an online community to connect students, staff and audiences while its campus is closed during the coronavirus outbreak.
The Glasgow-based drama school said the platform, RCS at Home, would serve to “spread joy and combat isolation”, with features including streamed lunchtime concerts, online talks, yoga classes and cultural recommendations showcasing the school’s alumni.
Spotlight has temporarily suspended its membership fees for three months, following pressure from actors.
Last week, a petition signed by more than 500 performers urged the casting site to halt its fees (see below), while actors are left out of work because of the sudden closures of theatres.
In an email to its members, Spotlight said: “If you’ve been particularly affected by this crisis and are struggling to make ends meet, you can opt in to a one-off, three-month payment holiday,” adding that anyone who pays annually would have three months added to their membership.
A producer is creating a platform on her website to put a spotlight on final-year drama school students who will be unable to graduate with showcases due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Ameena Hamid is creating a webpage to showcase the profiles of final year students, including actors, writers and designers, on the website for her production company Ameena Hamid Productions.
Freelance and self-employed workers in the theatre face bankruptcy within a year if further measures are not put in place to support them financially, it has been warned.
The caution comes as chancellor Rishi Sunak faces increased pressure from entertainment unions to offer pay assurances to the industry’s entire freelance and self-employed workforce, and provide “a real safety net for all workers”.
Entertainment union BECTU is calling on the chancellor to “urgently revise” his newly-announced financial plan so that it provides better support for creative freelances, arguing he is failing to give them the help they need.
Labour MPs Ed Miliband and Tracy Brabin, the shadow culture secretary, have also claimed Rishi Sunak’s plan neglects the self-employed, with Brabin describing it as a “job half done”.
Sunak promised to suspend the minimum income floor to allow all freelances to access Universal Credit at a rate equivalent to statutory sick pay for employees.
However, Caroline Norbury, chief executive of the Creative Industries Federation, said: “The £94.25 per week offered in universal credit does not come anywhere near to compensating them for their income loss, nor is it close to the amount they can reasonably be expected to live off.”
Theatres have been ordered to close tonight (March 20) to fight the spread of coronavirus, prime minister Boris Johnson has said.
While the majority of British theatres have already shut their doors, the move marks an escalation of the government’s measures, which had previously only advised the public not to attend rather than explicitly telling venues themselves to close.
It means that any theatre still in operation – along with pubs, restaurants, cinemas and gyms – must close immediately and not open tomorrow.
Leeds Playhouse and Opera North’s co-production of A Little Night Music has been postponed, the two companies have confirmed.
The Sondheim musical was due to begin rehearsals next week, ahead of a May 9 opening, but has been put on hold while Leeds Playhouse’s building is closed, for the foreseeable future.
The Theatres Trust is advising venues to delay non-urgent capital works in order to prioritise the survival of their businesses.
Director of the trust Jon Morgan is urging theatres to “concentrate on their people and concentrate on their business liquidity” while doing the bare minimum to keep buildings safe and watertight.
More than 500 actors have signed a petition urging Spotlight temporarily to suspend its membership fees during the coronavirus pandemic.
The petition says that many of Spotlight’s members are losing work and worrying about paying rent, and calls on the platform to suspend membership fees for three months for those paying by direct debit, and to extend memberships by three months for those paying annually.
Charity Stage One has announced grants of up to £5,000 for producers who have previously undertaken a development programme with the organisation.
It said it was “acutely aware of the disruption and uncertainty producers are facing and are here to help with financial support and practical advice for those who are directly affected by the Covid-19 outbreak”.
Spotlight has written to the government calling for a rescue package for its members who have been financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
The letter calls on the government to introduce measures to provide financial assistance to actors, including making Universal Credit advances a grant rather than a loan.
Chief executive Richard Wilson said: “I am writing on behalf of the 70,000 actors who are members of Spotlight.
“Film, television and theatre productions are all essential to entertain, engage and educate society, especially in these difficult times when so many people are isolated from the rest of their communities.
“The role of the acting profession can help bring comfort through the art of storytelling into everyone’s homes. Our members now need essential financial support from the government, to ensure they can continue in their work.”
Individuals and companies across the UK and Ireland have set up online appeals to support people within the creative sector who have lost income due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Click here to see our regularly updated list.
The Society of London Theatre is lobbying the government for a clearer timeframe on closures, as it announces venues will be shut until at least April 26.
“The theatre industry is lobbying government for a clearer time frame on closures and extending the legal refund window, and urging credit card companies to look at their automatic charge-back processes during this time period,” it said, adding: “We are so sorry that in these testing and difficult times you are not able to enjoy the show you have booked for. We are cancelling all performances until April 26, whilst we wait for further clarity from the government.”
LIFT Festival has announced the cancellation of the 2020 festival, which had been due to take place from June 2 to July 11.
“Following government advice on March 16 and to protect the safety of audiences, artists and workforce, LIFT cannot proceed with the festival at this time, and will instead return with an edition in 2021,” it said.
Artistic director Kris Nelson and executive director Stella Kanu said: “We are incredibly sad to announce that we will not be proceeding with this year’s festival. The health, safety and wellbeing of our audiences, artists and team is our upmost priority, and having listened to advice from the government, and consulted at length with festival artists and LIFT’s trustees, partners and colleagues, it is clear that there is no choice but to postpone.”
A theatre in Nottingham that has been forced to close due to the Covid-19 pandemic is launching a Creative Quarantine daily newsletter of activities for adults and children who are confined to their homes.
Nonsuch Studios is behind the newsletter, which will begin on March 23. The venue said more than £50,000 worth of bookings, ticket sales and activities had “gone over night” when it shut due to the government’s advice for the public to avoid theatres.
Philip Pullman and Stephen Fry are among the signatories of an open letter calling on the government to introduce a temporary income protection fund to support freelances through the Covid-19 pandemic.
Organisations representing freelances, including the Creative Industries Federation and the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed, are behind the letter.
Drama school students preparing to graduate in 2020 have expressed their frustration and worry after showcases, exhibitions and final-year productions were put on ice indefinitely this week.
With many schools cancelling face-to-face teaching and public events in an attempt to slow the spread of coronavirus, actors and creatives finishing their degrees this year face missing out on crucial opportunities to gain agent representation, and exposure to casting directors and influential industry figures.
Opera Holland Park has cancelled its 2020 season scheduled to run from June, but has committed to paying artists and backstage staff a portion of their fees.
The news comes as English Touring Opera also announces the cancellation of all 52 remaining performances of its spring 2020 tour, but with a commitment to pay all freelances their fees for the full tour.
Entertainment unions including Equity, BECTU and the Musicians’ Union have issued a joint call on the government to provide an income guarantee for freelance and self-employed workers during the coronavirus outbreak.
Their calls follow findings from BECTU that more than 70% of freelance workers are worried they will not be able to pay bills because of the outbreak. MP Tracy Brabin also warned that a generation of working-class talent could be lost because of a lack of support for freelance workers.
Equity, BECTU and the MU are all part of the Federation of Entertainment Unions, which represents more than 100,000 people working in the entertainment and creative industries, including actors, journalists, theatre workers, musicians, writers, entertainers, production crew, directors and designers.
Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester has cancelled its forthcoming production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella due to “uncertainty over the current Covid-19 outbreak”.
The production would have been the UK theatrical premiere of the Broadway version of the show, and had been due to run between May 9 and June 6. It has now been put on hold indefinitely.
William Whelton, Hope Mill’s executive director, said: “During these uncertain times and with our current closure, Hope Mill Theatre is unable to financially commit to producing the upcoming theatrical premiere of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. This was a heartbreaking decision to make but unfortunately was the only decision we faced in order to safeguard our current employees and the future of our venue.
“To produce a show on this scale, at a theatre of Hope Mill’s size poses many challenges in the best of circumstances, so to do so in the current climate simply posed too great a risk.”
The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain has said that the closure of schools will increase pressures for its freelance members amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
WGGB Chair Lisa Holdsworth said: “Theatres have closed their doors, TV and film productions are being cancelled by the day, and the creative industries have been hugely impacted by the Covid-19 crisis.
“It is a very challenging time for WGGB members, who are self-employed, without the protection of statutory sick pay and other benefits, and are now facing additional caring responsibilities with the announcement of school closures.”
Holdsworth said the organisation is “working hard behind the scenes” to advocate on its members behalf.
She added: “We are witnessing a growth in collective action as a result of this crisis and our sector is coming together to provide mutual support.
“Unions will play a central role in protecting workers in coming months and our members will remain our number one priority.”
West End performers have started to be offered interim payments following the closure of productions, The Stage understands, with some offered £350 until more concrete decisions over pay are made.
With shows cancelled at last minute earlier this week, questions have been raised over payments due to actors in shows, especially until it becomes clear what parts of their contracts will be upheld.
Danny Mac and Jodie Prenger are among those who will be performing in an online event to raise money for people in the arts who are facing hardship as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Theatre Together, a new collective of more than 50 artists and industry professionals, is behind the All the Web’s a Stage event, which will take place on Shakespeare Day on April 23.
Theatres around the country have begun initiatives to make use of staff and resources during their closures, with Pitlochry Festival Theatre launching a telephone club for members of the public.
Theatr Clwyd, in Mold, Wales, has used the time since closing its doors earlier this week to film digital content for educational and creative use, and make ‘creative home packs’ for vulnerable people. It has also taken surplus food stock from its cafe to homeless shelters, as has Curve in Leicester.
Thriller Live has confirmed its departure from the West End, and played its final performance on March 15. The Michael Jackson musical had already announced its closure and was due to end its 11-year run on April 28, however the shut down of the West End and its home, the Lyric Theatre, means the show will play no further performances.
Its producers said: “We would like to thank everyone who has worked on the show; the cast, band, crew, creative team, head office, freelance contributors and theatre staff past and present. We have the best team in the world. We’ve loved sharing the music and magic of MJ in London and we will keep the legacy alive on tour.”
Freelance creative workers, including technicians and engineers, have offered to use their building skills to help the NHS create temporary wards and operating theatres in the fight against coronavirus.
An open letter, penned by a group of entertainment industry freelances, is proposing that individuals who are currently out of work use their expertise to assist the NHS, as intensive care units reach capacity.
Equity has vowed to argue the case for entertainment workers to the “highest levels of government”, as it outlines plans to secure a rescue package for people in the industry.
General secretary Christine Payne described the situation as an “unprecedented crisis” and said the union was negotiating with employers to get the “very best deals” for those affected by cancelled productions, shows and gigs.
Ticketing software provider Spektrix has developed a free tool to allow cultural organisations to take donations in lieu of refunds amid the coronavirus-driven closures.
The Ticket Converter Tool is a new piece of software created by Spektrix, which provides ticketing, marketing and fundraising software to theatre and arts organisations. The new tool can be used by any cultural organisation, regardless of whether they use Spektrix’s software ordinarily.
Author Michael Morpurgo has issued a plea to the public to help save the Barn Theatre in Cirencester, warning the venue may “never open again” as it faces loses of £250,000 following cancellations due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
The War Horse writer is appealing to fans of the venue to donate to its online Save Our Barn campaign.
Birmingham Hippodrome has confirmed it will continue with its closure to the public until April 20, 2020.
Due to the rapidly evolving nature of the situation, the venue will be reviewing this date over the coming weeks,
A statement from the venue said: “During this period of temporary closure to the general public, suspended activity includes all productions in auditorium and Patrick Studio, the Open Doors foyer activity, coffee bar and off-stage educational activity.
“Our ticket sales team will be contacting all affected ticket holders directly.”
It added: “The safety and health of our staff and visitors is our number one priority. We will continue follow any recommendations from the relevant authorities and implement all appropriate instructions accordingly.”
The Old Vic has confirmed the full closure of its building until further notice, postponing its upcoming production of 4,000 Miles starring Eileen Atkins and Timothée Chalamet.
The London theatre had already cancelled all remaining performances of Endgame, bringing its run to a close two weeks early, and has now postponed Amy Herzog’s 4,000 Miles, which was already in rehearsals.
A blog post from artistic director Matthew Warchus said: “Here at the Old Vic we promise to do everything possible to maintain some kind of meaningful connection with our audiences during this time and, with the help of our extraordinary staff, supporters and artists, I know that we’ll be back, as strong and feisty as ever, before too long.”
Leicester Curve has announced that it will remain closed to the public until May 4.
The theatre is in conversation with producers to reschedule as many performances as possible, and is postponing the production of its Made at Curve musical Roman Holiday until 2021.
When alternative dates have been finalised, all tickets will be automatically transferred or full refunds will be offered.
A statement from Curve artistic director Nikolai Foster and chief executive Chris Stafford said: “The theatre industry is pulling together and through our shared efforts, we have no choice but to emerge from these challenging times more resilient than ever.
“We made a vow when the extent of this crisis became clear, that we will do whatever it takes to ensure the long-term survival of Curve and we will work harder than we ever have done before, to ensure our theatre remains open and can continue to serve all our communities.”
More than 70% of freelance workers in the creative industries surveyed by union BECTU are worried they will not be able to pay their bills because of the work they have lost due to coronavirus.
The entertainment union ran an emergency survey that closed on March 16, before widespread social distancing was recommended by the government to stop the spread of the virus. It was answered by 5,600 workers.
Almost half (46%) of survey respondents said they have already lost money as a result of the virus’ impact, with 457 people reporting losses of more than £5,000.
Advance ticket sales and income at arts venues nationwide dropped by 92% year-on-year following Boris Johnson’s advice that theatres close, new data reveals.
The findings are the result of analysis of comparative advance sales on March 17, 2020 – the day after Johnson’s advice – and the equivalent day last year.
They have been published as part of a new partnership between arts management consultancy TRG Arts, and arts data specialist Purple Seven.
Shakespeare’s Globe has announced it will close to the public until further notice, ceasing all performances, education activities and tours.
Michelle Terry, artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe, said: “It is one of the hardest decisions [the management] has ever had to make, but a responsible and necessary one.”
She added: “Right now, we are speaking with our artists far and wide to create ways to share stories and stay connected with you. And, importantly, ways for you to stay connected with us.
“We will be in touch soon with more information but until then, please stay well and safe.”
Patrick Spottiswoode, director of Globe Education, said: “It was with such sadness that we had to interrupt the run of our Playing Shakespeare with Deutsche Bank production of Macbeth.
“It was on the eve of our first integrated British Sign Language performance of the play. Over 33,000 students had seen the production but a further 15,000 had tickets and will now not be able to see it.”
Coventry City of Culture has said it is refocusing its resources to support those working in the creative sector “during this difficult time”.
The Coventry City of Culture Trust has made a series of pledges in response to the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, which include honouring all existing freelance and employment contracts and creating new commissioning opportunities for artists in isolation.
The Arts Council of Wales has warned that theatre companies and venues face “multi-million pound losses” because of cancelled projects, as it outlines a series of measures designed to mitigate the impact of coronavirus.
These include ending funding conditions for organisations in its portfolio for at least three months and honouring project funding awards to cover costs, regardless of whether the funded activity is cancelled, reduced or rescheduled.
Eden Court in Inverness is to work with its funders the Highland Council to find ways for its 200 employees to join the authority’s response to Covid-19.
Eden Court chief executive James Mackenzie-Blackman said: “Following discussions with the Highland Council, Eden Court staff will, over the coming days and weeks, be invited to support the delivery of Highland Council’s resilience response.”
New plays written especially for broadcast and recorded live performances will be made available for free by the BBC to “give British culture an audience that can’t be there in person”.
It is proposing an arts and culture service, Culture in Quarantine, which promises to keep the arts alive in people’s homes.
Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre has announced it is postponing the opening of new musical 101 Dalmatians by a year.
The production had been due to run from May 16 to June 21.
However it will now open the theatre’s 2021 season, running from May 15 to June 20.
A statement from the theatre said: “The musical has been in development for two years with full casting about to be announced ahead of rehearsals starting later this month.
“Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre is a charity which operates without any public subsidy and so must generate the vast majority of its income from ticket sales.
“The decision to delay the start of the 2020 season, though unavoidable given the current global crisis, has been an extremely difficult one and we are very mindful of all those associated with the production who now find themselves without work.”
The theatre added that it will be in contact with ticket holders directly.
Its 2020 season will now open with Romeo and Juliet, which runs from June 27 to July 25.
Norfolk and Norwich Festival has announced its cancellation for 2020. The multi-arts festival was due to take place between May 8 and 24, however organisers said they had decided not to proceed this year to protect the safety of audiences, artists and their own workforce.
An entire generation of working-class talent could be lost because of a lack of support for freelance workers amid the coronavirus outbreak, the shadow culture secretary has claimed, as others warn of the “financial ruin” facing self-employed creative workers.
Labour MP Tracy Brabin said she was “dismayed” by the government’s failure to introduce relief for freelances in its early packages of emergency coronavirus measures.
The Brighton Festival, which was due to take place in May, has been cancelled for the first time since it was founded in 1967.
It has also emerged that the Brighton Fringe has been postponed, with organisers hoping to move it to later in the year.
Productions including George Stiles and Anthony Drewe’s musical version of The Wind in the Willows and The Habit of Art starring Matthew Kelly are to be made available online, as theatre companies find ways to keep performances alive while venues close.
The Wind in the Willows producer Jamie Hendry said: “We’re facing huge challenges ahead, but at this time of uncertainty this is a small contribution we can make to continue bringing theatre to audiences,” he said.
Theatre companies are announcing initiatives to support artists as they begin to fight back against the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on the industry.
Initiatives which have been announced so far include commissions for artists who are self-isolating from new writing company Papatango and an emergency fund for freelances from the Turbine Theatre’s artistic director Paul Taylor-Mills.
Conservative peer Stephen Gilbert has written to the government asking how it plans to protect the creative industries amid the ongoing heath crisis, warning that many theatres face an “existential threat” due to closures.
The government has announced additional emergency measures to support the survival of theatres following the closure of venues across the country yesterday.
Measures include extending a year-long suspension of business rates to theatres of all sizes and cash grants of £25,000 for small venues to help them through the period of closure.
Chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak announced the additional support during a press conference today (March 17).
Sunak also addressed widespread concerns that a lack of clarity in the government advice for theatres to close during the coronavirus pandemic will see insurers avoiding payouts.
This year’s Olivier Awards have been cancelled due to the wider shut down amid the UK’s coronavirus outbreak, it has been confirmed.
The Society of London Theatre said the 2020 awards ceremony, which was due to be held on April 5 at the Royal Albert Hall, would no longer be going ahead. Further plans about announcing this year’s winners are yet to be announced.
Mischief Theatre has announced that The Comedy About a Bank Robbery played its last performance on March 15 – bringing forward its closure date by seven weeks.
The show had originally been due to close on May 3.
A statement from producers Mischief Theatre said: “Due to the closure of theatres in accordance with the UK Government and SOLT’s advice, we can confirm that The Comedy About a Bank Robbery played its last performance on March 15.
“We want to say a big thank you to all our crooks, accomplices and audiences who’ve helped to stage this heist.
“In our four years on the West End and on the run, we’re proud to have stolen both diamonds and hearts too.”
Ambassador Theatre Group has announced plans to use advertising slots usually reserved for its shows to mount a campaign encouraging audiences back to the theatre once venues reopen.
The company said it would use pre-purchased advertising space on the London Underground and in newspapers to display posters promoting British theatre.
Rehearsals for the forthcoming production of Sister Act the Musical have been postponed, as producer Jamie Wilson urges other shows to stop performing or rehearsing immediately.
“We are not cancelling the production, we are just postponing,” he told The Stage, adding that the plan is to open the production once the current closure period ends. The musical stars Brenda Edwards and was due to open at Curve on April 21.
London’s King’s Head Theatre has confirmed it will not be able to access an insurance payout to cover the costs of its closure – while announcing free online Q&A sessions every week day.
The fringe venue, which is unsubsidised, has announced it is to close from today until April 11, due to the current health situation.
It has committed to paying artists who were due to be working in the building as well as its zero-hours-contract workers, front-of-house staff and technicians two weeks’ pay and removing the cost of rent from companies due to be in the building during its closure.
A statement from the venue said: “As a small venue, a covers-every-possibility insurance policy would never be affordable and as such we don’t have the option of a payout for this decision, but our first and foremost priority is the health and well-being of the community.”
The venue has also announced it will host free Q&As every week day at 1pm for 30 minutes, with Wednesdays being an ‘ask us anything’ session for small companies.
Thursdays will be a skills session with an industry professional, while on Friday the organisation will host a book club looking at a different play text each week.
The Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers is urging audiences show patience and kindness towards theatres, asking them not to flood box-office staff about refunds or exchanges.
STAR, which is the regulatory body for the ticketing industry, said the sudden, high number of cancellations and postponements could cause difficulties for venues if patrons all chase resolutions at once.
It is asking customers to wait to be contacted about their tickets and avoid calling or emailing venues with questions, which could prove counterproductive at this time, STAR said.
STAR’s chief executive, Jonathan Brown, added: “Rest assured, our members are working as hard as they can to resolve your issues. They are very busy also dealing with their own measures to care for their staff and run their businesses.
“Please be patient and kind as box offices, ticket agents and other ticket sellers are committed to helping you during this extremely difficult period.”
UK Theatre has confirmed it is meeting with entertainment unions with a view to providing industry-wide recommendation by tomorrow evening (March 18).
In an email to its 200 plus member venues, seen by The Stage, UK Theatre said it has already engaged in “good, rapid work” with the unions, and would be taking part in a discussion with its combined industrial relations committee with the Society of London Theatre this afternoon about theatre’s next steps amid the nationwide closures.
This will be followed by “more discussion with the unions, and then a recommendation to both boards will follow for adoption and communication”.
“We anticipate this being ready by Wednesday evening,” UK Theatre said.
The body said it is urgently seeking clarification from government about the timescale for the closures and enforcement of that closure in order for theatres to activate insurance claims.
It will also press DCMS on what support can be offered for the sector.
A new online group will live-stream readings of the complete plays of William Shakespeare in the order they were written.
The initiative, called the Show Must Go On, has been launched by actor and director Robert Myles with the aim of keeping actors “connected and creative”.
Actor Ben Crystal will introduce the first livestream, which will be of The Two Gentlemen of Verona and will take place on March 16 at 7pm.
Myles said: “The response to the Show Must Go Online has been overwhelming – so many professional actors and experienced amateurs were willing to donate their time to entertain each other and an audience.
“The mix of people, the mix of experience, many of whom will be meeting each other for the first time, some of whom are from America and Europe – but all brought together by their love of Shakespeare – these are sights you’d never normally see in a regular production.”
The Royal Albert Hall – where the Olivier Awards are due to be held next month – has been closed until further notice.
A statement from the organisation said: “In light of the Covid-19 pandemic and following advice from government, we have taken the decision with a heavy heart to close the Royal Albert Hall from midday today (March 17) to the public until further notice.
“The safety and security of our artists, audiences and staff is, ultimately, all that matters.”
The statement said the loss of income from closing the venue is going to be “financially devastating”.
It added: “We invest millions of pounds every year just to look after our building, but our main costs are our staff, whose livelihoods are at stake.
“We have committed to pay our people through various closure scenarios, and any support you are able to give us would be enormously appreciated.”
The Olivier Awards 2020 are currently scheduled to run at the venue on April 5, however it is uncertain how long closures will last.
English National Opera is among the first major cultural institutions to commit to paying performers and contracted workers while its building is closed.
ENO said it would honour “all contracts until the end of the main stage opera season up to and including performances on April 18”.
Industry leaders have warned of the “perilous and uncertain future” faced by the theatre industry, with some cautioning that venues will shut permanently as the impact of closures around the country is felt.
The Stage understands theatre companies are already making redundancies, as they move to a skeleton staff in a bid to manage the period of uncertainty after venues closed with immediate effect following yesterday’s advice from Boris Johnson.
The Theatre Cafe and Lambert Jackson Productions have announced a festival of live-streamed concerts to keep actors working during theatre closures.
Leave a Light On will be a series of paid piano concerts streamed live from the Theatre Cafe in London for a small fee.
A leading theatre lawyer has warned that a lack of clarity in the government advice for theatres to close may give insurers an excuse not to pay out – which could have a “severe impact for a lot of venues”.
Theatre specialist Neil Adleman, who works for entertainment law firm Harbottle and Lewis, has outlined the legal situation following advice yesterday (March 16) from Boris Johnson that the public should avoid theatres in the fight against coronavirus.
Southwark Playhouse and the Barn Theatre in Cirencester have become the latest theatres to confirm they will shut down amid the coronavirus outbreak. They are among several unfunded venues not covered by SOLT and UK Theatre to announce their intention to cease operations for the foreseeable future.
The Barn also announced a campaign to secure its future, warning that it stands to lose approximately £250,000 over the coming months, which could force its permanent closure.
It said: “The Barn Theatre Project, operates without funding from local authority or Arts Council support, so this loss of revenue is a hammer blow to us… Our future is now dependent on our supporters and as such we are launching a donations campaign via our website and social media platforms, working together to Save Our Barn.”
Southwark Playhouse acknowledged that it was entering “an unprecedented period of uncertainty” but vowed to return “stronger than ever”.
Other newly announced closures include fellow London fringe venue the Coronet Theatre, which said it would work to make some of its art available to audiences “in a safe and sound way” while closed.
Drama schools including Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, LAMDA and Guildhall School of Music and Drama are cancelling face-to-face teaching because of the coronavirus outbreak.
LAMDA said it would be delivering teaching programmes “digitally for the foreseeable future with the hope we can recommence face-to-face learning from mid-June”. All public performances at LAMDA have also been cancelled.
Equity has said it plans to issue “clear direction” by 17:00 tomorrow (March 17) about how the theatre closure will impact its members.
The union said: “We are in ongoing discussions as to how these closures should be classified, and which provisions under the collective agreements should apply.
“he union will issue clear direction on the website for all members working on all agreements as to our updated position by 17:00 on the 17 March at the very latest. We will be in constant contact with deputies throughout tonight and today, and urge concerned members to speak to deps first about the latest position.
“Members who want more detail as to their current contractual position can find advice at www.equity.org.uk/coronavirus-advice. The advice on contracts and agreement provisions remains current.
“Members who are worried about highly specific circumstances, are working on one hander shows, are on non-union agreements or are ‘creative team’ members currently affected, should contact their relevant organiser directly. Along with deps’ queries, these will be treated as priority enquiries. Please find contacts here.
“This is a worrying time for our members, and the solidarity of all Equity members, activists and staff are with those affected. The union will work hard to ensure that members are treated fairly during this uncertain period, putting the health and safety of our members and communities first and protecting their income as best we can. We will be looking at how we can best support members through this period, not just through our collective agreements and advice, but also mutual aid groups and signposting.”
The Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre have announced the closure of all its venues with immediate effect, following the government’s press conference this afternoon.
An official statement said: “We regret to announce that as of this evening all SOLT and UK Theatre member venues will close this evening (including tonight’s performances) in light of the most recent official government advice. They will remain closed until further notice and will re-open as soon as possible, following government recommendations.”
Birmingham Hippodrome has cancelled all performances following government advice.
A statement said: “Following the recommendation from the UK government, we can confirm the upcoming performances of The Book of Mormon at Birmingham Hippodrome (between the dates of March 16 and March 28) will unfortunately be cancelled.
“We ask all ticket holders to avoid contacting Birmingham Hippodrome directly. The ticket sales team will be in touch as soon as possible with those affected.”
The statement added: “For upcoming performances from March 29 onwards, we are in discussions with producers and will keep our ticket holders informed.
“The safety and health of our staff and visitors is our number one priority and we will continue follow any recommendations from the relevant authorities and implement all appropriate instructions accordingly.”
The Royal Opera House has become the latest venue announcing it is to close the building to the public and cancel all performances with immediate effect.
A statement from chief executive Alex Beard said: “The safety and security of the Royal Opera House staff, audiences and artists is of paramount importance and we take this responsibility very seriously.
“In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have taken the decision with a heavy heart to close the building to the public and cancel all performances in Covent Garden with immediate effect.”
The statement added: “The staff and artists of the ROH are vital to the lifeblood of our art forms, without them we would simply not exist.
“This suspension of performances will impact not only our loyal audiences but also our committed and talented workforce.”
Beard said employees are reliant on income from ticket purchases and that without performances the organisation will become more reliant on philanthropic support and charitable donations.
The statement added: “We will be in contact with all ticket buyers in due course.
“Where possible, we ask that you consider donating the value of your tickets to the Royal Opera House Covent Garden Foundation rather than requesting a credit note or refund.”
London’s Bush Theatre has announced it is cancelling remaining performances of The High Table and Collapsible in light of government advice.
The venue tweeted: “In light of the latest government advice to avoid public gatherings, we are cancelling the remaining performances of The High Table and Collapsible from tonight.
“If you are a ticket holder for the cancelled performances, our box office team will be in contact within the next 48 hours to manage your booking. We’re a small team so please bear with us.”
Watford Palace Theatre has cancelled its production of Talking Heads with immediate effect following the government’s latest advice.
The theatre has also postponed its forthcoming April run of Abigail’s Party until 2021.
A statement from the venue said: “These are not decisions that we, as a theatre, have made lightly, but we do feel are necessary during these uncertain times; the welfare of our patrons, performers and staff is paramount.
“Covid-19 will have significant financial implications for the Watford Palace Theatre, a charity that has been at the heart of the Watford community since 1908.
“Much of our income is dependent on donations and the generosity of our wonderful audiences who purchase tickets to our productions.”
The venue has confirmed it will continue to honour all contracts previously agreed with freelance actors, artists and creatives, in line with guidance from Arts Council England.
It will also work with freelance artists to create a new digital project which will be available online.
The statement said: “Watford Palace Theatre is determined, with the support of our loyal patrons and fans, to emerge from these difficult times more resilient than ever before, with a unique and engaging programme of work.
“So we are asking those of you who have purchased tickets to any of our cancelled shows to consider donating the cost, if you are able to, to help assure our future.
“For those unable to do so, credit notes will of course be available allowing you to return at another time. If this is unsuitable, we will offer a full refund.”
The Royal Court Theatre has halted all performances and rehearsals with immediate effect – as it pledges to “do all it can” to support the rest of the sector through the coronavirus outbreak.
A statement from the venue said: “We are in unprecedented times and have been listening to our colleagues and artists here and around the world.
“The exponential escalation of this public health emergency, and its impact on people’s lives and responsibilities, mean that the current conditions for the Royal Court Theatre’s core mission – creating theatre and inviting the public in to share in it – no longer seem viable.”
The statement added: “As a well-funded National Portfolio Organisation we acknowledge and welcome the support Arts Council England is providing to us but are concerned that many in the sector, both companies and individuals, will struggle to weather this crisis. We will do all we can to support and lobby for you.”
Everyone in the UK should avoid all non-essential contact and avoid pubs, clubs, restaurants and theatres in the fight against coronavirus, Boris Johnson has said.
In a press conference, the prime minister has said he is giving “very strong advice that public venues such as theatres should no longer be visited”.
He stopped short of issuing an outright ban on mass gatherings and said “As for enforcement, we have the powers if necessary but I don’t believe that it will be necessary to use those powers.”
Johnson added that “the proprietors of those [theatres] are taking the logical step”.
“You’re seeing the change already.”
Johnson also said individuals should work from home wherever possible.
Freelance theatre technicians, directors, musicians and actors are sharing their fears about the coming months, in anticipation of closures.
It comes as shadow culture secretary Tracy Brabin announces she will push government for a universal basic income guarantee that includes freelancers and the self employed.
Some have warned that without the possibility to work from home, events being cancelled for a prolonged period would mean they cannot afford rent payments.
A UK-based agent has revealed the job losses and uncertainty faced by her clients as international work becomes subject to sweeping cancellations.
Becky Barrett, whose agency represents actors working primarily in musical theatre, said her agency alone has dealt with more than a dozen instances over the past week, with individuals being told to stop working and tours being cancelled as borders close and mass gatherings are banned in many countries.
Seven of Barrett’s clients working on musicals in Germany have been sent home as theatres there close for the next month, while two Australian tours, three tours in Italy and one in Vienna have also been cancelled.
Barrett said some performers may be subject to unemployment benefits in their current country of work but this had not yet been confirmed.
She added: “We have a few cruise clients either being flown home or quarantined at sea, not knowing what their situation is regarding pay.
“Obviously it’s distressing for the actors and difficult for us as their agents to inform them of what will happen regarding going back out on contracts, as we are all in a situation that is completely unprecedented.”
Barrett said she is currently only dealing with international work being lost but anticipates further impacts on her West End and UK touring clients.
London cabaret club Crazy Coqs has postponed all shows in March and April, it has confirmed. The venue said it would try to reschedule as many events as possible, and plans to continue scheduled shows from May.
Performances of Pass Over at the Kiln Theatre in London have been cancelled due to a member of the company undergoing precautionary self-isolation.
All the performances from March 16 to 21 have been cancelled, with the theatre reviewing the status of planned performances from March 23 to April 4.
A statement posted on Twitter apologised for “the late notice and and any inconvenience caused” and said all ticket holders have been contacted.
It added: “All screenings at Kiln Cinema are scheduled to go ahead and our cafe will remain open during the day Monday to Saturday.”
The Scottish government has advised all organisers to cancel or postpone any events involving more than 500 people, both indoors and outdoors.
Holyrood does not have the powers to instruct organisers to cancel events although it says it may have such powers in the future.
Ticket holders who are unable to attend a West End show due to feeling ill, choosing to self-isolate or facing travel restrictions in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak are now being offered free exchanges.
The launch for the Edinburgh International Festival has been postponed because of coronavirus. Last week, organisers announced it had cancelled face-to-face briefings about the launch, which had been scheduled for later this week, and would instead be holding an online launch. This has now been postponed.
Executive director Francesca Hegyi said: “In the light of the rapidly changing Coronavirus situation, we will postpone the launch of the 2020 programme including the planned media briefing tomorrow and the digital launch of the Edinburgh International Festival programme on Wednesday.
“It is important to emphasise that we are still planning to deliver a festival this August but we think it best to wait a number of weeks before launching our programme.
” We are working as quickly as we can to provide certainty to everyone. Our focus remains on presenting the festival and getting artists back on our stages and audiences back into concert halls and theatres as soon as it is safe to do so.
“Please bear with us whilst we navigate staging this international festival at a particularly unusual time.”
The Menier Chocolate Factory is among the theatres urging patrons who had booked for now-cancelled shows to consider donating the cost of their ticket in order to support the theatre industry.
It is the latest to announce that performances will be suspended, until at least April 12.
The London venue had previously reduced the cost of all March tickets to Paula Vogel’s Indecent in a bid to encourage audiences, but has now announced that it has stopped performing altogether.
A statement said: “Our priority is to the health and wellbeing of our company and our audiences. We will continue to monitor the situation during this period, and adjust our plans as necessary in conjunction with our company’s needs, and advice from the government. We remain committed to the production – Paula Vogel’s play is a rare and beautiful piece of writing, and we will be proud to share it with audiences at the Chocolate Factory when the time is right.”
“For those who have purchased tickets for this period, you will be contacted in due course by your point of sale to discuss options. Like many in our industry today, as an unsubsidised venue, this will impact on us greatly. If you are in a position to support us – and we understand not everyone can, by donating the cost of your ticket, that would be hugely appreciated.”
Equity has published a document to help members understand what financial support is available to them during the coronavirus outbreak. Covering situations including individual quarantine and illness, the effects on self-employed businesses and help with living costs, the document features advice on what entitlements are available for different circumstances, and how to claim.
It can be accessed here
BECTU’s parent union Prospect has written to the government calling for more support for freelance workers, who it says are in a “particularly vulnerable situation” during the coronavirus pandemic.
Last week’s budget included some measures aiming to make it “quicker and easier” for self-employed workers to access benefits including Contributory Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit.
However, Prospect has said it is “deeply concerned” that the government’s action to protect freelances did not go far enough and “is not comparable to the scale of assistance being offered to employees or to businesses”.
Park Theatre in London has cancelled all remaining performances of La Cage aux Folles, as members of the company are self-isolating as a “precautionary measure”.
“We apologise for the short notice and inconvenience and are contacting all affected patrons. Corpse! is currently going ahead as scheduled,” the theatre said.
All remaining performances of Nora at the Young Vic have been cancelled, with the theatre stating that the “health and wellbeing of our audiences and staff will always be a priority”.
Both performances of the play were cancelled on March 14, as a precaution, but now the remaining shows in the run – which had been due to continue until March 21 – have been pulled.
The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland has suspended all face-to-face teaching, public events and auditions until further notice. The Glasgow drama school said its facilities such as its library and individual practice rooms would remain open, and the schools is working to move to distance learning.
Applicants auditioning for next year will be asked to submit a recorded audition online and complete interviews by Skype.
Principal Jeffrey Sharkey said: “I appreciate this is an unprecedented and anxious time for everyone and it is important that we work together as a supporting and connected community taking care of each other and continuing to focus on learning and teaching in albeit different forms from those we are used to.”
London theatres the Arcola and the Turbine have become the latest to suspend performances amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The Arcola, in Dalston, said in a statement that it did not believe it “practical or responsible to stage shows while people’s lives are at risk”.
It will stop all public performances until further notice, but warned that the impact of coronavirus represented a critical threat to its future and called for audiences to show support with donations.
Meanwhile, the Turbine Theatre’s artistic director Paul Taylor-Mills said all performances until April 18 would be cancelled.
“We take the health and safety of our staff, performers and indeed audiences very seriously at the Turbine Theatre. With this in mind we’ve taken the difficult but necessary decision to cancel all performances from Mon 16 March until Sat 18 April.
“We will monitor the global situation closely and make a decision at a later date if we need to cancel further performances,” he said, adding that the theatre hoped the reprogramme cancelled productions where possible.
The Old Vic has cancelled remaining performances of Endgame as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, meaning the show will end its run two weeks early.
In a statement it said: “Whilst we have no reason to disagree with current scientific and government advice on coping with the Coronavirus, given the new travel and other restrictions in place it is nevertheless becoming increasingly impractical to sustain business as usual at our theatre.
“It is with great sadness that we have had to decide to suspend the presentation of #OVEndgame for the next two weeks, which is the remainder of its run. All other performances are currently scheduled to go ahead as planned.
“The Old Vic operates in an unusual way for a non-commercial theatre in that it has no Arts Council support. Instead it is completely dependent on philanthropic donations, sponsorship and ticket sales. We now need your help more than ever.”
Its next show, 4,000 Miles, is due to begin performances on April 6.
Urdang Academy is to close from 2pm on March 16.
“The health and wellbeing of staff, students and our wider community will always be our top priority,” it said in a statement.
It added: “The college staff are following a Student Action Plan to enable all students to continue with their learning remotely, and for college staff to work from home. We will do all we can to minimise disruption and to clarify the arrangements for programmes of study.”
The college plans to reopen on April 14 following the scheduled Easter break.
Arts Council England has pledged to “refocus” some of its grant-giving programmes to help compensate individual artists and freelance workers who lose earnings because of coronavirus.
The organisation said it was still planning this, and would have more information on how this will work in about 10 days’ time.
A theatre PR said she has lost two thirds of her work in one day due to the current uncertainty around coronavirus.
Ariane Oiticica, who runs Unavoidable PR, tweeted: “No one really sees my tweets but I just wanted to put it out there that I lost 2/3rds of my work in one day and as it is, I have one month worth of rent and bills.
“I spent a huge amount of time this week trying to work out what to do. If anyone has any advice, holler my way please.”
Good Chance has announced it is postponing the opening of a new temporary space in Mexico.
The theatre company, which works with refugees and migrants, planned to open a pop-up dome venue at the US/ Mexico border in partnership with Tijuana’s Instituto Municipal de Arte y Cultura.
Originally scheduled to run from April 14 to June 13, the project is now expected to be delayed until late summer.
A spokeswoman for Good Chance said: “Latest guidelines within the region have restricted public gatherings due to the coronavirus and naturally the safety and well-being of the tens of thousands of migrants and refugees stranded in legal limbo in Tijuana is of paramount importance to the Good Chance team and our partner organisations.”
Staff working at Trafalgar Studios have been required to sign a declaration to say they have read and understood the venue’s policy on coronavirus.
A spokesman for the venue said: “All our staff have been sent official public information as issued by the government and Public Health England along with health advice and sickness procedures for if they are ill.
“Everyone has been required to sign and return a declaration form to HR to say that they have read and understood the information and procedures sent to them.”
The venue has also released a statement online to reassure customers that it is taking preventative measures.
Other steps being taken include frequent cleaning of “high contact points” in the venue and emphasis on the importance of hand washing.
The statement said: “At this moment in time, performances will go ahead as planned unless specific circumstances arise or there is a change in the official advice we receive.”
It added: “The health and safety of all our employees and customers remains our highest concern and we will continue to monitor the Covid-19 situation as it unfolds and follow the latest government advice.”
The fallout of the coronavirus is likely to have a “devastating knock on effect” on single parents, sole carers and those on low income, campaign organisation Parents and Carers in Performing Arts has warned.
PIPA has called on performing arts organisations and the government to consider the medium term needs and risks posed to parents and carers in the industry’s workforce.
A statement from the organisation said: “Those who are freelance or contractors and look after ill, disabled or elderly loved ones or have small children will be confronted with loss of income and employment if self-isolation is required, or if events, shows and concerts are cancelled, but also if new guidance advises that schools must close. “The loss of income and livelihood is heightened particularly among those on freelance and fixed term or zero hours contracts, many of which will contain the ‘force majeure’ clause, meaning there will be no liability to the employer if they cancel jobs.”
The statement adds: [Cuts to income] have the likelihood to have a devastating knock on effect to those who are already vulnerable, such as single parents, sole carers and those on low income, who due to their employment status are not eligible for parental leave or sick pay.”
Organisers of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe have said they are optimistic the event will run as planned in August, but have outlined measures they are taking should the situation change.
These include working with the event’s insurers, government stakeholders and participants to “limit the financial impact” in the event of it being cancelled completely.
Sara Bareilles and Gavin Creel will leave Waitress a week early, stating they want to return to the US before any further travel restrictions are in place. In a statement, the pair said they would play their final show on March 14. “It was an agonising choice, as we have loved our time here at the Adelphi diner. The warmth and generosity of the West End audiences has been unparalleled,” they said.
The London premiere of Christopher Durang’s comedy, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, at Charing Cross Theatre has been postponed. It had been due to open on March 21, starring Janie Dee, but this will not now go ahead as planned. It wil be rescheduled later in the year.
Producer Steven M. Levy said: “We have been closely monitoring the developing situation surrounding coroniovirus (COVID-19). The safety of our cast, staff and our patrons is paramount and so we have taken the very difficult decision to postpone the production to later in the year. Obviously events are fast moving and changing day by day but when the crisis is passed we will announce a new opening date. Patrons should consult their point of purchase for refunds.”
The cast of ‘Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike’ features two time Olivier award-winner Janie Dee, Vincent Franklin, Rebecca Lacey, Michelle Asante, Charlie Maher and Lukwesa Mwamba.Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike was due to play an eight-week season at the theatre.
The National Theatre said it is ” actively monitoring and following advice from government and Public Health England about the outbreak of coronavirus”.
“Based on the latest advice, we’re staying open and performing as scheduled,” a spokeswoman said.
She added that the venue has “put a variety of different measures in place”, including providing hand sanitiser for everyone working in the building and communicating the latest information to our staff and company on how to detect symptoms and prevent the virus being passed on.
“We’re asking everyone visiting or working in the building to stay aware of the latest advice from government on Coronavirus and to follow that advice to minimise the risk of the virus spreading,” she added.
She said the NT would continue to follow government guidance and take any “further steps necessary as the situation changes”.
The Royal Shakespeare Company has confirmed all performances are scheduled to go ahead as planned – but said it is experiencing a drop in bookings and customer cancellations.
Executive director Catherine Mallyon said: “We are experiencing a number of enquiries from the public about visiting us, plus a drop in bookings for future performances and cancellations.
“People who are cancelling their tickets are currently being offered the choice of moving to another performance or being given a credit note.”
Mallyon said the RSC has a team which is monitoring the situation daily, and that the venue is following the advice of the government and Public Health England.
The theatre has also also introduced precautionary measures including hygiene reminders, additional soap and alcohol-based hand gels and the upscaling of cleaning procedures.
Mallyon added: “All of our performances and activities – in Stratford-upon-Avon, London and on tour – are all currently scheduled to go ahead as planned, and any changes to this situation will be communicated through our website and on social media.
“In Stratford-upon-Avon the Royal Shakespeare Theatre is currently dark as we prepare for our new season, starting with The Winter’s Tale on March 28. We do have performances in the Swan Theatre and other activity around the buildings.”
Shakespeare’s Globe is undertaking additional cleaning and disinfecting measures to combat the spread of Covid-19 – as it confirms its schools project is continuing to go ahead.
A statement said: “The safety and health of our staff and visitors is our number one priority and we are actively monitoring and following advice from the UK Government and Public Health England about the outbreak of coronavirus.
“In order to further protect our visitors and staff we are undertaking additional cleaning and disinfection measures.”
The spokeswoman added: “We are still welcoming schools for our sold-out Playing Shakespeare with Deutsche Bank production of Macbeth.
“As yet, our performances scheduled in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse and Guided Tours are unaffected.”
Watford Palace Theatre has said “the show must go on” for as long as government advice permits.
Artistic director and chief executive, Brigid Larmour, said: “The country is not on lockdown so neither are we: for now, the show must go on.
“The Palace is a large, well ventilated Edwardian auditorium, and many of our audience are choosing to enjoy a good night out of Alan Bennett, for as long as the situation allows.
“The virus has however kept some people away, with the benign side effect that patrons can sit further apart from each other if they wish.”
Larmour said that the theatre has an action plan in place, and that the theatre is “constantly reviewing [its] procedures” to be in-line with the latest government advice.
She added: “Like all theatres we are a people business, and the health and safety of our patrons, artists and staff is at the heart of what we do.”
HQ Theatres and Hospitality, which runs venues including Bromley’s Churchill Theatre, Guilford’s G Live and Wyvern Theatre in Swindon, has said it is preparing its marketing teams for a scenario where multiple performances are cancelled.
A statement from the operator said: “On the back of advice issued by the government last night, we have confirmed that all staff who need to self-isolate at home for seven days will be paid as normal for this period. This includes contracted and hourly paid staff.
“We are also preparing our marketing and ticketing teams for a scenario where it is necessary to cancel or postpone multiple performances; preparing statements and email contents so we have a clear and consistent approach across the group.
“Finally, we’re exploring options for home-working should this become necessary (either when someone is self-isolating or where this can be sensibly achieved within some job roles).”
The operator listed other actions it is taking:
• Posting of advice statement on all venue websites
• Ongoing sharing of all government guidance with our venue teams in relation to mass gatherings and self-isolation.
• Implementation of specific coronavirus risk assessment procedures in all venues.
• Additional hand-wash facilities in venue (hand sanitiser stations and/or soap and water as appropriate).
The Edinburgh International Festival has announced it is opting to cancel all its launch events, which had been planned for two dates in March, in Edinburgh and London. Instead the festival is creating a ‘digital event’ to be broadcast live on March 18, at midday on facebook.com/edintfest to its global online audience. People will be able to pose questions to the to the programming team. This will follow the unveiling of their 2020 programme at 10am that morning, on eif.co.uk, for the festival taking place from august 7 to 31.
The festival’s organiser has also temporarily updated its refund policy.
“If an audience member is unable to attend any event at the 2020 Edinburgh International Festival for any reason related to the coronavirus outbreak, the full cost of the ticket will be refunded,” it said.
Merlin Entertainments, which runs attractions including Legoland, Thorpe Park, Chessington World of Adventures and Alton Towers, has announced additional safety measures it is implementing in light of the spread of Covid-19.
A statement said: “The health and safety of our guests and our staff is always our top priority and we will take all necessary precautions to ensure their continued welfare.
“We have implemented enhanced cleaning regimes and have made available extra hand sanitisers throughout the [resorts], as well as informed our teams of coronavirus symptoms and the importance of good hygiene practices.
“For actors/ performance teams we have looked at a number of additional measures including controlled distanced meet and greets and guest spacing in our shows.”
The statement added: “Like many businesses, we continue to monitor the situation closely and are in regular contact with local authorities so we may respond quickly to any developments.”
A senior theatre designer has told The Stage a future project he was working on has been “likely cancelled” and that producers of shows he has been involved with have emailed to say “closures are likely”. He also warned that there are reports of dips in ticket sales, as audiences start to stay away from theatre shows. “It is a real worry and I think the industry will be hit,” he said.
SOLT said that, following the latest government advice, “theatres continue to stay open as part of the scientific rationale for managing the coronavirus outbreak”. This comes despite Broadway closing down all its theatres for 30 days, in a bid to stop the spread of the virus.
“SOLT and UK Theatre are in daily contact with the DCMS, members and theatre organisations across the world to share insight and experience, ensuring our theatre workforce and audiences are safe in accordance with the latest Public Health England and NHS advice,” it said.
It is understood that both organisations will be part of a central government session early next week targeted at the creative industry sector. This will allow specific theatre industry concerns to be taken into account in government planning.
SOLT and UK Theatre are also meeting with unions, theatrical charities and other organisations across the sector to discuss the impact of coronavirus and put plans in place to support venues, theatre professionals and audiences both now and in the future.