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Sir Cameron Mackintosh has said theatres “desperately need” the Government to support the industry as they are in a “dreadful state” while shows across the country are cancelled due to coronavirus.
A string of West End productions and live events have had to cancel performances due to cast and crew testing positive for Covid-19 while bookings for the beginning of 2022 are far below expectations.
Sir Cameron, whose West End hits include Hamilton and Les Miserables, told BBC News: “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.”
The producer and theatre owner added that it would be a “terrible blow” if the sector had to shut again, adding: “Whether we’re shut by the Government or shut by stealth because of all the mixed messages we’ve been getting – whatever happens, the Government does need to step in and help the hospitality and the commercial theatres that help keep London going.”
In an interview on Monday, Boris Johnson warned the public that new controls to curb the spread of the Omicron variant could be brought in, saying that data was being monitored “hour by hour” amid fears the NHS could be overwhelmed.
The Prime Minister also said that the economic impact of any new measures needed to be taken into account – particularly on those sectors which were already struggling due to the pandemic.
He said: “It is important we act cautiously but it is also important we look after the hospitality industry, the theatres and other parts of our incredible entertainment industry which have suffered and are suffering.”
Mr Johnson ruled out immediately implementing new restrictions but said people had “naturally” decided to go out less.
Reacting to the Prime Minister’s statement, playwright James Graham wrote on Twitter: “Waiting for more data that proves an emergency is happening before you act to prevent that emergency from happening – isn’t prevention. (a pretty good definition of populism, tho)
“If only question is ‘when’, theatres/bars/pubs need it to be now for less, not later for longer.”
Numerous shows have had to cancel performances due to coronavirus, including The Lion King in the West End which has shut until at least December 28 due to “ongoing Covid-enforced absences” among the cast and crew.
Other London-based musicals including The Book Of Mormon, Cabaret At The Kit Kat Club, Dear Evan Hansen and Come From Away have announced they will also all be suspended until December 27.
Jersey Boys, Wicked, Moulin Rouge, Aladdin, Cinderella, Les Miserables, Mamma Mia! and The Drifters Girl have also had issues.