It’s been a tough time for London’s theatres and it looks like the uncertainty continues over when the sector will be able to return, following an announcement that ‘Les Misérables’, ‘Mary Poppins’, ‘Hamilton’ and ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ will not be reopening in the West End until 2021.
Musicals producer Cameron Mackintosh said in an announcement today that he’d been ‘forced ... to take drastic steps’ due to a lack of ‘tangible practical support’ from the government and its uncertainty over plans to ease social-distancing measures.
Mackintosh said his productions will be reopened ‘as early as practical in 2021’, taking into account that once social distancing measures are lifted it will take several months to prepare the shows and for advance sales to build.
The move means that Mackintosh’s producing partners and Delfont Mackintosh Theatres are now exploring the possibilities of redundancies for all employees working on the affected musicals.
In a statement, Mackintosh said: ‘This decision is heartbreaking for me, as I am sure it is for my employees, as everyone who has worked with me over the last 50 years, on or off the stage, knows how much I care about what I do and how I do it.
‘Despite the government engaging with the desperate pleas from everyone in the theatre industry, so far there has been no tangible practical support beyond offers to go into debt which I don't want to do. Their inability to say when the impossible constraints of social distancing will be lifted makes it equally impossible for us to properly plan for whatever the new future is. This has forced me to take drastic steps to ensure that I have the resources for my business to survive and enable my shows and theatres to reopen next year when we are permitted to. I have no investors or venture capital backing, everything is funded by me personally and already my companies’ considerable reserves have been massively reduced by the complete closure of our industry everywhere.’
The announcement follows predictions from West End and Broadway theatre producer Sonia Friedman that nearly three-quarters of performing arts companies could close down for good by Christmas 2020 unless the government intervenes to save them.
Friedman has led calls for the government to support her industry, which have been echoed by Mackintosh: ‘The commercial theatre provides billions of pounds of revenue to the economy’, he said. ‘It is time this is recognised and the government takes action to ensure this priceless resource at which the British people excel is helped to survive. Without our theatres being ablaze with life, London cannot properly reopen as one of the world’s greatest cities.’
All customers who have booked tickets to see the cancelled productions will be contacted directly by the box office and offered a credit voucher or a refund.
Read about how you can watch ‘Fleabag’ online to help support UK theatres.