Risk to UK theatre ‘stark, real and not far away’, Nottingham Playhouse warns

The risk of permanent closure to UK theatres is “stark, real” and “not far away”, one of the largest regional playhouses has warned.

Nottingham Playhouse’s artistic director Adam Penford spoke out after the Government published a plan for the industry’s return.

He said that theatres need financial investment and clear dates so that they can plan ahead.

“Even once we’re allowed to reopen, we don’t think the audience numbers will return to the same level. For years, probably,” Penford said.

For “any theatre there’s a risk of… complete collapse and closure and then potentially never reopening. It’s stark and it’s real and it’s not far away”.

Theatres perform a crucial “civic” role, with a “huge” contribution to their communities, he added.

“It’s not just about the work we do on the stage, although that’s really important and we’re really proud of it.”

Nottingham Playhouse works with youth groups, learning disabled adults, and those who are homeless, at risk of homelessness or have suffered from substance abuse.

“When you speak to those participants about the self-confidence it gives them… it is just transformative,” he said.

Penford said it was a “financial no-brainer” to keep theatres open.

“The money that we need just to sustain us through to next spring is less than the money we’d need to mothball the company for the next period of time, and then reopen.

“It would cost more to lay everyone off, and then reopen,” he said.

As well as financial packages, the industry wants dates for returning.

“Very few people are going to take the risk (of rehearsing again) because once you start going into rehearsals you start spending money and nobody actually knows when that performance can happen and (when we can) sell tickets,” he said.

The industry had hoped for an extension of the furlough scheme “but it now looks highly unlikely that they will make an extension for a specific sector, it seems they’re pretty determined to just end it, full stop,” he said.

On Thursday, the Theatre Royal in Newcastle announced plans to make half of its staff redundant due to the impact of the lockdown.

Earlier this week, the Theatre Royal Plymouth announced it has started redundancy consultations following a plunge in revenues.

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