Government ‘must change direction or there’s no way out for theatres’


There will be “no viable way out for theatres” unless the Government changes its policy on live entertainment, according to one performer.

Jon Ranger is a piano player on A Christmas Carol at the Dominion Theatre in London’s West End, which – like all other theatres in the capital – will be forced to close its doors again as Tier 3 restrictions are introduced on Wednesday.

Mr Ranger said he felt “a combination of anger, frustration, a bit of hopelessness” at the news, telling the PA news agency: “We fought so hard as an industry to prove that we could open safely and we’d done everything that was asked of us, yet it doesn’t seem to be enough.”

Theatres in London had only just reopened following a month of national lockdown, with severe restrictions on audience numbers and Covid-safe measures in place, while many venues in Tier 3 areas across the country have not been able to open at all.

The Dominion Theatre in London's West End
The Dominion Theatre in London's West End

“With this production, we’re all tested every three days, we wear masks backstage, and those of us that can wear masks on stage do so, those that can’t are screened off,” Mr Ranger explained.

“The cast are distant for most of the show, the audience are temperature checked, the audience are distanced.

“There really isn’t any more measures that could be put in place to prove that it’s safe.”

Mr Ranger said the feedback the show had received from those in attendance proved how desperate the public is to attend live performances.

He said: “People’s mental health is really important and the reaction we’ve had from the audiences in previews and last night – last night was the best audience reaction I’ve ever had on any show that I’ve ever done, because people need this, they need something to enjoy in their lives and they need something to live for.”

Mr Ranger called on the Government to give more security to theatres so they can open back up again without the worry of being “told with 48 hours’ notice, ‘Now you have to close again’”.

He said: “I don’t think the Government really understand how much planning it takes to mount a production – it’s not just a case of like, ‘OK, you can open tomorrow’ and we can throw a show together.

Cameron Mackintosh
Cameron Mackintosh

“It takes weeks, if not months of planning.”

He added: “If the Government continue with this attitude and this direction, I don’t see a viable way out for theatres in the new year because it’s just not a business model that could operate like that.”

On Monday, theatre producer Sir Cameron Mackintosh criticised the Government’s decision to move London into Tier 3, saying it is “devastating” and “smacks of panic”.

His production of Les Miserables at the Sondheim Theatre in the West End will be forced to close from Wednesday.

He said the performers and staff at the theatre have been tipped “into unemployment just in time for Christmas – Bah Humbug to the Prime Minister and the men in white coats”.

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