Theatre Theatre Theatre: Social media campaign highlights plight of the arts

Actors and arts lovers are bombarding culture secretary Oliver Dowden with the word “theatre” on social media to highlight the plight of the industry.

While much of the economy – including pubs, restaurants and cinemas – prepares to reopen in a socially-distanced form this weekend, live performance, including theatre, remains prohibited by Government guidelines.

With disappointment from within the industry about a perceived lack of financial support and clarity for the future coming from Government, actors and others are now venting their frustration online.

Made In Dagenham and 1917 star Daniel Mays was among those who addressed the culture minister on Thursday, tweeting: “THEATRE THEATRE THEATRE THEATRE THEATRE THEATRE THEATRE THEATRE THEATRE THEATRE THEATRE THEATRE THEATRE THEATRE THEATRE THEATRE THEATRE THEATRE THEATRE THEATRE THEATRE THEATRE THEATRE THEATRE THEATRE THEATRE (you want another one Olly?) THEATRE! Do something @OliverDowden”

Former Eastenders actor Tamzin Outhwaite also sent a message to Mr Dowden, simply tweeting the word “theatre” 33 times.

Others sending similar tweets on Wednesday and Thursday included choreographer Matthew Bourne, actors Rufus Hound and Arthur Darvill and director Steven Kavuma.

A number of West End and theatre stars, including Carrie Hope Fletcher, Danny Mac, Bonnie Langford, Paapa Essiedu, Lee Mead, Charlotte Jaconelli and Jenna Russell also tweeted, as well as a host of casting directors, writers and more.

Late on Wednesday, Mr Dowden tweeted: “I understand the deep anxiety of those working in music & the desire to see fixed dates for reopening

“I am pushing hard for these dates & to give you a clear roadmap back

“These involve v difficult decisions about the future of social distancing, which we know has saved lives.”

The message prompted a slew of further “theatre theatre theatre” tweets.

Mr Dowden’s five-stage “roadmap” for the return of live performances, revealed on June 25, received widespread criticism from within the industry.

Philippa Childs, head of entertainment and media union Bectu, said it contained “no dates, no clarity, no support and no certainty”, adding that there is “little understanding” within Government of the situation in the industry.

“A roadmap is fine – as long as you have enough fuel in the tank to get there,” she said. “Many theatres don’t, and this much-awaited announcement falls woefully short of what is needed.”

Christine Payne, general secretary of actors’ union Equity, said the plan was “meaningless” without investment to protect jobs.

On Wednesday, the Royal Exchange theatre in Manchester announced it was set to make up to 65% of its staff redundant.

In its statement announcing the measure, the theatre said: “From the Government’s recent announcements, there is nothing on the table which gives us confidence or clarity to be able to restart any activities in the immediate future.”

Other theatres, including the Theatre Royal in Plymouth and the Theatre Royal in Newcastle, have also announced plans to make major redundancies.

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