West End theatres 'could remain shut until early 2021'

4 May 2020, 16:27

Warning: Sir Cameron Mackintosh
Warning: Sir Cameron Mackintosh. Picture: PA

By Ewan Somerville

West End theatres could remain shut until 2021, leading theatre producer Sir Cameron Mackintosh has said.

Sir Cameron, who has staged Cats and Les Misérables, said planning to restart London’s famed musicals could not begin until social distancing curbs end.

He said: “I think from the moment social distancing doesn’t exist any more, it will take us four to five months to actually get the actors back together.”

All West End performances have been cancelled until May 31 at the earliest.

Sir Cameron warned Broadway, which was enjoying a boom in ticket sales before the pandemic hit, is also “going to be the last to go back”.

“We will be back, but we need time to get back. If we don’t hear [about lockdowns lifting] in a few weeks, we won’t be able to come back until early next year. I think that’s quite clear,” he added.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to map the road ahead out of lockdown later this week, but leaked Government plans suggest social distancing restrictions will last into 2021.

It comes amid growing pressure from industry representatives for ministers to step in and help the arts sector survive the economic fallout of coronavirus.

The Society of London Theatre (Solt) and UK Theatre urged theatregoers to donate funds to help the industry’s 290,000 staff weather the “severe impact”.

Renowned British playwright James Graham has called for an “aggressive government bailout”, warning the sector would become more elitist and exclusive without one.

He said: "I don't even know if there will be a theatre or film industry that we can recognise when this is all over."