Leopoldstadt lockdown: what happened when the West End closed overnight | Step


Tom Stoppard Leopoldstadt It was just beginning its sold out week eight at Wyndham’s Theater in London’s West End when the order was stopped. Hosted as a late-period masterpiece – and perhaps the final play – of a prominent playwright who had waited until his 80s to investigate his Jewish origins, it was a huge production to match the scale of the story he drew, following a prosperous Viennese family from 1899 to 1955, with opening and closing paintings that revealed just how much frustration had been annihilated.While not intended to offer a topical reflection on the anti-Semitism that has torn the left in the UK in recent years, its debates on the limits of assimilation have struck a nerve, and the audience flocked. “I thought it was the end of interest in the Holocaust, but in fact it had become a kind of hotspot. I didn’t write about more recent events, but it was part of the public awareness that brought the piece, “said Stoppard.

This awareness that, despite all it had in the past, the play told an important and topical story, was shared with passion by the troop of 43 people, more than two thirds of whom were themselves Jewish, determined to wear as long as they could while the closure of public spaces swept the world. Although the West End was emptying, LeopoldstadtOur clientele has continued to grow – an increasing number of them wearing face masks. When the decision to close was finally made, the company went to a local pub to wait for further instructions, recalls producer Sonia Friedman, “and all we could tell them was,” You have to go home. ” “

“This story is not yet credible, we are living it”: the theater producer Sonia Friedman, who had 11 performances in the world when the pandemic started. Photography: Jason Alden

If you want to understand how devastating the Covid-19 crisis was to the entertainment world, you need look no further than the week that Friedman will never forget. In the afternoon of Wednesday March 11, his production of Harry Potter and the cursed child was halfway through a performance at the Curran Theater in San Francisco when the city’s mayor announced a ban on all events involving more than 1,000 people. “For better or worse, we decided to continue but to close the evening after the second part. There had been a state of emergency in California since the beginning of March and we were watching a haemorrhage in sales, “explains the producer, whose 11 productions that were touring the world at the time included five of JK Rowling’s hit plays – in Germany, Australia, the United States and London.

I am constantly talking to my staff, theater owners, producers and investors, but no one has an answer

The next afternoon, New York closed all of its Broadway theaters, removing three more Friedman shows. Friday, the German production of Harry potter was closed on the last day of previews in Hamburg. On Sunday, Melbourne cinemas closed, taking Australian production with it, and on Monday March 16 – “at this point in acute crisis mode” – Friedman took precautionary action to heed Boris Johnson’s “advice” that all UK outlets are expected to close, and to close its five remaining productions.

Some members of the cast had already self-isolated after developing fevers. “I was in my London office, wearing a mask, with some of my staff, and we were all in shock,” recalls Friedman. “I announced that even though we did not receive a warrant [the full lockdown only happened on 23 March], I was closing everything until further notice. A press release was scrambled and a team of associate producers sent news for each theater, while Friedman sat in his London seat to answer panic calls. Besides the 11 shows that were already open, she had seven others in production.


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