Almost half of London’s major theatres cancelled shows at weekend as Omicron fears grow

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  • Cameron Mackintosh
    British theatre and musical producer

Almost half of London’s major theatres cancelled shows at the weekend due to soaring Covid-19 cases in the capital.

Hamilton, Maltida, Wicked, The Lion King, Cinderella, Cabaret and Come From Away were among the shows hit by cancellations as Omicron cases surged across the capital.

Some 22 out of 46 members of the Society of London Theatre axed performances.

Producer Sir Cameron Mackintosh said it was “hugely disruptive” and the industry was in a “dreadful state”.

He said: “It’s literally day-to-day. We spend all morning trying to work out if we can do the show or not.”

“The important thing is, when we do it, it is safe, and the public have been remarkable in that they are, in our experience, turning up mostly to the shows,” he told BBC News.

Bookings for the first part of 2022 are lower than expected which Sir Mackintosh said was “really worrying for almost everybody across the business”.

He continued: “It’s understandable why, but this is why we desperately need the government to step in and help the commercial theatre, because by and large the commercial theatre hasn’t had any help at all across the pandemic.

“We’ve all used our reserves to get the shows back up. At the point that we’re trying to recoup some of our losses, we are in a dreadful state at the moment and desperately need the government to help commercial theatre going through the next few weeks.”

Most commercial theatres, which covers the mainstream West End and big regional venues that host hit shows, were not eligible for the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund.

Some theatres have already decided to clear their schedules until after Christmas or New Year, due to staff shortages.

The musicals The Book of Mormon, Dear Evan Hansen and Come From Away are all suspended until December 27.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is off until December 29.

Shakespeare’s Globe’s Measure For Measure will not return until January while the National Theatre’s Hex said it will not be putting on performances until January 5.

A spokesperson for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: “Our unprecedented £2bn Culture Recovery Fund has given out £1.5bn in grants and loans, and almost £200m to the devolved administrations. The £300m third round of the Culture Recovery Fund is still open for applications, providing vital ongoing support for the cultural, heritage and creative sectors.

“We will keep the delivery of the programme under active review and consider how best to adapt it in line with the needs of the sector.”

Shows currently not impacted in the West End include Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Back to the Future, Frozen, Pretty Woman, The Shark Is Broken and The Drifters Girl.

On Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he won’t implement tougher Covid restrictions immediately following a Cabinet meeting ahead of Christmas.

He said he would “reserve the possibility” to introduce more stringent measures and “won’t exclude going further if we have to”.

It comes as the UK recorded a further 91,732 positive infections and 44 Covid-19 related deaths.

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