Andrew Lloyd Webber has said he is determined to open his theatres on June 21 and is prepared to be arrested if authorities try to intervene.
However, Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick responded today, saying the impresario’s comments had been made in the “heat of the moment”.
The pandemic has had a catastrophic financial impact on the theatre industry and many have remained closed despite the ease in Covid-19 restrictions as it is not financially viable for them to open with reduced capacities.
Lord Lloyd-Webber is preparing for a production of Cinderella which is scheduled to open for previews on June 25 ahead of its world premiere in July.
“We are going to open, come hell or high water,” Lord Lloyd-Webber told the Telegraph.
Asked what he would do if the Government postponed lifting lockdown, he said: “We will say: ‘come to the theatre and arrest us.’”
The June 21 “freedom day” is in doubt due to concerns over the impact of Covid-19 variants.
Lord Lloyd-Webber said scientific evidence shows theatres are “completely safe” and do not cause outbreaks.
He added: “If the Government ignore their own science, we have the mother of all legal cases against them. If Cinderella couldn’t open, we’d go, ‘Look, either we go to law about it or you’ll have to compensate us.’”
This is not the first time Lord Lloyd-Webber, 73, has criticised those calling for a delay in reopening.
Last week he told the Daily Mail he may take legal action if his theatres are not allowed to welcome back crowds at full capacity.
Communities Secretary Mr Jenrick told Sky News: “I’m sure that Andrew Lloyd Webber’s comments are made in the heat of the moment. I’m sure he feels this very strongly but we all have to do our best to abide by [the rules].”
The Secretary of State said he “completely empathised” with Lord Lloyd Webber and added: “You’ve just got a few more days to wait until the judgment that the Prime Minister is going to make on the basis of the data.”