British theater faces ruin amidst coronavirus crisis Stage


The British performing arts sector, the world leader, has been brought to its knees and risks ruining itself without urgent government investment, warned a powerful alliance of nearly 100 actors, writers, directors and creatives.Phoebe Waller-Bridge, James McAvoy, Sharon D Clarke, Tom Stoppard, Wendell Pierce, Emma Rice and Andrew Scott are among the names that support a letter warning of the threat to theater, opera and dance in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.

In total, 98 creative people who were nominated this year for the country’s most prestigious stage awards – the Olivier Awards and the Theater Awards – called for action to help save an area they say is more than ever necessary.

Letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden follows Oxford Economics report warning of 400,000 job losses and £ 74 billion in annual income loss in the arts industry, in what they describe as a “cultural disaster” Caused by the complete closure of arts venues and live events in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis.

“The British theater is on the brink of ruin,” says the letter. “The theater is one of the most dazzling success stories in the UK. In all its forms, be it theater, musical theater, opera or dance, British theater is a world-class cultural and economic force with productions filling places from Broadway to Beijing.

“The pandemic has brought the theater to its knees. Theaters don’t have the money to operate sustainably with physical distance. It’s hard to see places open before the end of the year. “

Threatened theaters

Industry calls on government to continue job retention program, create emergency relief fund and offer new support program for army of independents who help create much of the job sector.

He also put forward the idea of ​​a system of participation in cultural investment, in which the government would be a sort of “angel” investor in productions from which the state would obtain a return.

Signatories to the letter also include stars from the musical Mary Poppins – Zizi Strallen, Charlie Stemp, Petula Clark and choreographer Matthew Bourne – as well as actors Juliet Stevenson, Colin Morgan, Toby Jones, Reece Shearsmith, Indira Varma, Andy Nyman, Adrian Scarborough and Sam Tutty. He is also supported by director Trevor Nunn and industry leaders such as Alex Beard, general manager of the Royal Opera House, and Stuart Murphy, general manager of the English National Opera.

Miriam-Teak Lee, who was nominated this year for Olivier for his main role in the musical and Juliette, also signed the letter. She said the theater has the power to give people “the escape, the upliftment and the inspiration”, which they don’t get elsewhere. “They take with them a new breath of life and well-being which brings them over and over again. We have to do everything we can to keep the theater alive, ”she said.

Creative industries accounted for more than 2 million jobs in the UK in 2018

Pierce, nominated for best actor for his portrayal of Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, said the theater was particularly relevant in the context of the Black Lives Matter protests.

“Art is activism, intentional or not,” he said. “While laws can prohibit people’s behavior, art can change the hearts, minds and humanity of people. Art as activism is not just for the past. Your generation, these young people, must join my generation which will make its mark by answering the call of the bugle to tell the truth today. This is the role of the theater. Create a forum where we declare what our values ​​are, and then act accordingly. ”

Marianne Elliott, who directed Death of a Salesman, said: “I have serious concerns for the entire theater industry. So many people have dedicated their entire lives to this craft and it is highly regarded in the UK. It must be registered before it is too late. If we lose it, it will take decades to rebuild it. ”

Most British theaters have been closed since mid-March, when the country began to lock in to curb the spread of the coronavirus, with at least four of them saying they will not reopen. Others are starting to make layoffs. As they burn through their cash reserves, about three-quarters of theaters say they will run out of money by Christmas.

Creative industries contributed £ 111.7 billion to the UK economy in 2018

Theater, music and dance are particularly vulnerable because there is no business model that allows them to operate with physical distance, even if the 2-meter rule is reduced. Industry leaders say the average audience over 2 meters would be 20% of capacity; with 1 meter it is 30-35%.

The premises are suspended due to the government’s leave plan, but this should be reduced in August and completed in October. August is also the time when theaters will have to decide whether to go ahead with the most financially significant production of the year, the pantomime, which provides enough revenue to stage. riskier jobs.

Many theaters have creative ideas about physically faring performances, but these should not make money.

The British government has created a task force on cultural renewal and has appointed Commissioner Neil Mendoza, philanthropist and provost of Oriel College, Oxford. He hasn’t reported yet.

Dowden said on Wednesday that “leading performers in theaters, choirs and orchestras with experts and medical advisers” will be convened in the coming week to help develop a roadmap for the reopening of the scene. shows.

Cameron Mackintosh, one of the UK’s largest employers, has also announced that he is starting consultations on the layoffs of his hit musicals Hamilton, Mary Poppins, Les Misérables and Phantom of the Opera. He said the decision was heartbreaking and followed “no tangible support [from government] beyond offers to go into debt, which I don’t want to do. ”

Dowden said last week that his department was in delicate negotiations with the Treasury. “I will not sit idly by and see our position as world leader in the arts and culture destroyed,” he said. “Of course, I want the money to flow. I will not let anyone down. “


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here