London’s theatres had bet everything on being able to reopen at the end of Lockdown 2, with dozens of socially distanced productions scheduled to run over the Christmas period. Plus, numerous venues and major shows were planning to return to performance for the first time since March. There was also the little matter of pantomime season: although a shadow of its usual self, there were still major pantos at the National Theatre and the Palladium lined up, plus a number of smaller adult pantos.
Well, the bet appears to have paid off: London has ducked a bullet and will re-emerge from lockdown in Tier 2, which allows theatres to open. It’s really good news: while many theatres in Tier 3 cities will sadly be forced to cancel their Christmas seasons or send them online, most of the theatre scheduled to take place in the country in December was due to take place in London.
There may still be some complications, though: the toughened-up Tier 2 rules stipulate that venues can’t host audiences of more than 50 percent capacity, or more than 1,000 people in total, whichever is smaller. While this doesn’t affect a lot of shows, there are very notable exceptions: the Royal Albert Hall had hoped to reopen with a capacity of 2,500, and has now been forced to cancel the Birmingham Royal Ballet’s ‘The Nutcracker’, which was supposed to have a long run after Christmas. And it’s been widely noted that the concert version of ‘Les Misérables’ (pictured), due to run over Christmas, has an audience of 750 in a 1,074-seat venue, which seems likely to cause problems.
Still, we should be damn grateful that, for now, London theatre has been saved for Christmas.