- 'Hamilton,' 'The Phantom of the Opera,' and more shows are not returning to West End until 2021.
West End is further pushing back its stage shows, this time until 2021. Producer Cameron Mackintosh announced Wednesday that Hamilton, Mary Poppins, Les Miserables, and The Phantom of the Opera won’t be returning until 2021 as arts bodies warned that Britain faces a “cultural catastrophe” because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The company said it was talking to staff about “potential redundancies.”
Mackintosh, one of Britain’s biggest and wealthiest theater producers, said the decision was “heartbreaking” and criticized Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government for offering stage producers ”no tangible practical support beyond offers to go into debt, which I don’t want to do.”
He said the government’s “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.”
Theaters and more arts establishments have been closed since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Music, theater, art, design, architecture, and publishing generate billions for the British economy each year.
Indoor venues will continue to remain closed as shops and outdoor spaces including zoos will begin to reopen. Although the government is reviewing the distance rule amid pressure from retailers, restaurateurs, and others to cut it to one meter (three feet).
Chief executive Caroline Norbury of the Creative Industries Federation, which lobbies for arts and culture, said that “without additional government support, we are heading for a cultural catastrophe.”
“Thousands of world-leading creative businesses are set to close their doors, hundreds of thousands of jobs will be lost and billions will be lost to our economy,” she said.
Norbury and other culture-sector leaders called on the government to set up a “cultural renewal fund” and continue support programs that have supported self-employed people and furloughed workers during the lockdown. The Treasury plans to scale back the programs in the next few months.
A letter to the government signed by almost 100 theater artists including actors James McAvoy and Wendell Pierce and Fleabag creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge warned that “British theater is on the brink of ruin.”
“The pandemic has brought theater to its knees,” the letter said. “Theaters do not have the money to operate viably with physical distancing. It is difficult to see venues opening before the end of the year.”
Dowden said the government was looking at “what further support we can give” to the arts.
“I know how essential our theaters, our music venues and the performing arts are to our wider cultural ecosystem,” he said. “Culture is our calling card.”