A third of Bristol Old Vic’s permanent staff face redundancy due to a significant reduction in the work it can undertake and the income it can generate.
The theatre said it had made the decision in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, and that it anticipated 20 roles from its full-time workforce of 60 would be at risk.
Artistic director Tom Morris said: “Such a brilliant team does not deserve this process, which is caused by the unprecedented impact of the Covid-19 disaster and the forced contraction of our economy that has followed it. We are fighting to protect as many jobs as we can, but of course have to support and implement the board’s decision to prioritise the survival of the theatre so that we can regrow it healthily and once again entertain our loyal, generous and growing audiences as soon as circumstances allow.”
Bristol Old Vic chair Liz Forgan said by taking these steps now, the theatre was putting itself “in a position to emerge flexible, solvent, and fighting fit to meet the challenges of the post-Covid world”.
Executive director Charlotte Geeves added that the unprecedented circumstances of the crisis had removed 75% of its income “at a stroke”. This, she said, had left the theatre in an “extremely vulnerable position”.
“The government’s job retention scheme has kept us alive, as it has kept businesses alive in every part of the economy, and we are hopeful that the government’s cultural investment will support our survival further as we prepare to reopen the theatre gradually over the coming 18 months. The theatre plans to make further announcements about the programme shortly,” she added.
She warned that there was “no avoiding the fact that the current circumstances mean that we will be unable to recover the income levels we’ve built up over the last decade with any speed or predictability”.
“Therefore, to ensure Bristol Old Vic survives and is able to emerge, we have to reshape our business,” she said.
The news comes as the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury announced that about 30% of its staff are at risk of redundancy. The theatres join other organisations and venues in having to implement cuts, including Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre, LW Theatres and Birmingham Rep.