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Watch: Andrew Lloyd Webber slams 'untenable' COVID rules after Cinderella cancellation
Andrew Lloyd Webber criticised the government for not appreciating the value of theatre to the economy as he declared the West End is "on its knees".
The 73-year-old musical composer and producer announced on Monday – dubbed "Freedom Day" by some – that he was postponing the opening of his new musical production of Cinderella in London's Covent Garden.
He said the cancellation was due to "impossible conditions created by the blunt instrument that is the government's isolation guidance" amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Baron Lloyd-Webber told Sky News: "We can't go on like this, theatre is now on its knees, there's no way forward.
"I do worry at the end of the day that the government doesn't regard theatre as anything other than nice to have. I don't think they have a clue of what the real economic value to the country theatre is, and indeed all forms of live entertainment."
The musical impresario blamed the current isolation guidelines, which require anyone who has been "pinged" by the NHS Track and Trace app because they have come in contact with someone who may have tested positive for COVID to isolate for 10 days.
A visibly emotional Lloyd Webber said theatre "cannot function with this current system".
He added: "We can't isolate every time somebody may or may not have it. It just simply doesn't work."
Speaking from the Gillian Lynne Theatre, where it is understood he hopes to go ahead with a delayed opening of Cinderella later this month, Lloyd Webber appealed: "Listen. We do know what we're doing, we do.
"Just listen and knock all these platitudes and endless, endless blunt instruments that don't apply across the board."
He argued his theatre has "100% fresh air" and the "best ventilation system you can find."
Lloyd Webber also warned that another "very, very major show" will be forced to cancel its opening under the current system.
He called theatre "the life blood of our cities", adding, "It's not just about our actors, it's about all of the small people who depend on us – from the taxi drivers to the restaurants to even dry cleaners even. It's an endless list."
Lloyd Webber announced on social media on Monday: "Today, on this 'Freedom Day,' I have been forced to take the heart-breaking decision not to open my Cinderella.
A statement from Andrew Lloyd Webber pic.twitter.com/a47FN1anG3
— Andrew Lloyd Webber (@OfficialALW) July 19, 2021
"We have been forced into a devastating decision which will affect the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of people and disappoint the thousands who have booked to see the show."
Other productions due to open soon include The Mousetrap – the longest-running show in the West End – The Prince of Egypt and Lloyd Webber's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
Lloyd Webber – who volunteered to be part of an early trial of the AstraZeneca COVID vaccine last August in a bid to help combat COVID-19 – has been vocal throughout the pandemic about its effect on the theatre and entertainment industry.
His Really Useful Group has said it is losing up to £6m a week in box office sales, while Shakespeare's Globe and the Old Vic have warned financial losses could force them to close down permanently.
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