Playwright warns cultural landscape ‘in collapse’ as theatres remain closed

One of Britain’s leading playwrights has warned that the UK’s cultural landscape is “in collapse” as the future of theatres hangs in the balance.

Theatres and concert halls can reopen from July 4 under latest guidelines but will not be able to stage live performances and will be limited to screening recordings of past events.

James Graham, who wrote Ink, This House and The Vote, as well as TV dramas Quiz and Brexit: The Uncivil War, expressed dismay at the situation and highlighted the plight of the Theatre Royal Plymouth, which started redundancy consultations on Monday following a plunge in revenues.

He wrote on Twitter: “That’s one of the largest, most well attended theatres outside London. A theatre that now has no artists, and they won’t be coming back. Our world-beating cultural landscape is in collapse.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that cinemas, galleries and museums can open in England from July 4 with social distancing rules cut from two metres to “one metre plus” but the date when shows can resume in theatres is still to be determined. He said the Government will “work with the arts industry” towards their reopening.

Philippa Childs, head of the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Communications and Theatre Union: “News that cinemas and art galleries can re-open again with reduced levels of social distancing in place is welcome. However, this does not mean that cultural life will return to normal.

“There is still a huge amount of work to be done on messaging and ensuring that staff working in these organisations fully understand how things will operate and are protected from Covid-19. Even with reduced social distancing there are also questions about whether independent cinemas and art galleries will be financially viable.

“Workers in the theatre industry and live events will be astonished that the government is still discussing plans to work with experts when the issues have been clear for some time now and the industry is desperate for help now.

“Redundancy consultations are taking place across the country, thousands of people are facing losing their jobs and government support is urgently needed to ensure that theatres are able to open in the future.

“Reducing social distancing from two metres to one metre will have little effect on the challenges facing theatres. Theatres are a crucial part of cultural life and the economy in this country.

“A comprehensive rescue and recovery package is needed and the government has failed, once again, to recognise the seriousness of the situation.”

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