John Waterhouse – Playwright and Author

Will the show go on?

By Rebecca Reed.

British Theatre has endured crises before during outbreaks of the plague between 1603 and 1613.  Equally, The Globe theatre in London was shut for nearly 80 months. The country’s theatres were shut at the start of the civil war in 1642 and did not reopen until the Puritans lost power in 1660.  All theatres closed at the outbreak of the second world war.

As I flicked through my Facebook posts earlier this week, I came across a poignant image of the famous composer, Andrew Lloyd Webber sitting in a chair with a nurse injecting him. He is wearing a ‘Save our Stages’ ( black t shirt as he completes the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine trial.

He says ‘I’ll do anything to get theatres large and small open again and actors and musicians back to work’.  This is again a stark reminder of the lengths to which artists will go to raise the phoenix from the ashes. Andrew and producer Cameron Mackintosh have been very vocal about UK government’s ‘weak’ response to help the theatre industry during the pandemic.   Lord Lloyd-Webber has spent £150,000 on safety measures at his six theatres.

It’s not just the venues though, it’s the freelancers, the costume designers, sound engineers, the production crew, box office staff, stage managers, the hospitality industry working alongside the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, so many people impacted that bring live theatre to life.

HQ Theatres has announced that furlough payments are to end for 600 casual staff across 12 venues at the end of August. 

At the end of July it was announced arts organisation will be able to apply for grants of up to £3 million as part of the government’s £1.57 billion support package.  In this first round of funding, grants totalling £622 million will be distributed to cultural organisations.

Theatres need at least 4 months to remount productions, build advance bookings and public confidence.  I received an email a fortnight ago to inform me that that my rescheduled production of To Kill a Mocking Bird will take place on 30th June 2021.   That is a blessing. But for most theatres, for a summer opening next year, they’d need to reopen box offices in November. If this is unsupported, it is likely to have a push back to next autumn causing further disastrous losses.

Bruce Springstein wrote the album, The Rising, afew days after 9/11 attacks and many saw it as a more universal anthem of resilience and hope.  The song, My City of Ruins, has been used in response to other tragedies.  The refrain ‘Come on, rise up’ comes to mind through Webber’s brave action of sheer dedication.   Hope lives on as the theatre world unite to rise up from the ashes.