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What Does the Second Lockdown Mean For Theatre?

Show cancellations and postponements in November; some streaming work to continue

What Does the Second Lockdown Mean For Theatre?

England is going into another lockdown, initially planned to last from Thursday, 5 November until Wednesday, 2 December - although the Government hasn't ruled out an extension into December if necessary. So, what does this mean for theatres?

Show cancellations

All entertainment venues have been ordered to close during lockdown. That's obviously a huge blow for any productions already taking place or planning to open in November, which now have to be cancelled or postponed.

If you have booked to see a show, check the venue website or social media for updates, or you should be contacted with information on how to get a refund or rebook for a future date.

Those confirmed to be affected include:

- Nimax Theatres - plans to reopen its six West End venues have now been postponed until December. That includes productions like SIX, Everybody's Talking About Jamie and The Play That Goes Wrong. Only Adam Kay's show, which had already opened at the Apollo Theatre, will continue until 4 November

- National Theatre - Death of England: Delroy will have its last performance on 4 November; the remainder of the run has been cancelled

- The immersive Great Gatsby has cancelled performances until lockdown lifts

- The Bridge Theatre's Interview with an Immigrant will also end after 4 November, and Flight has been moved back to open on 3 December

- Theatre Royal Bath's Copenhagen is being rescheduled

- All Royal Opera House and English National Opera work in November has been cancelled

- The Hope Mill Theatre's production of RENT will play its final performance to live in-person audiences on 3 November. However, there is a filmed version of the show that can still be streamed

- The Curve's production of The Color Purple has been postponed to 2021

- The Royal Court's Living Newspaper project is now aiming for December

- The Union Theatre's When Darkness Falls has been postponed

- The Watermill Theatre's Lone Flyer will end after 4 November

- The Hair concert will now take place at the Mayflower in January, with London Palladium dates TBC

- Charing Cross Theatre's GHBoy plays 4 November, and then will reopen on 3 December

- Six now plans to open on 5 December at the Lyric Theatre, and kick off its UK Tour at the Lowry on 5 December

- Everybody's Talking About Jamie will now begin performances from 12 December

However, New West End comedy The Comeback is still planning to open on 8 December at Noel Coward Theatre.

Show rehearsals

Update 03/02 Oliver Dowden has since confirmed that arts venues can open for rehearsals and to stream work. However, audiences are not permitted.

The Society of London Theatre is seeking clarification from the Government about rehearsals for upcoming shows, arguing that it is work that cannot be done at home, and necessary if we are to have shows over the Christmas period.

Streaming shows

Thankfully, some streamed work will still be able to go ahead. That includes:

- The Show Must Go On online readings

- The Last Five Years at Southwark Playhouse - which has had to cut its live run short, but will be streamed internationally

- Likewise, Chichester Festival Theatre's Crave has cancelled in-person shows, but will still be streamed

- Lambert Jackson Productions' [Title of Show], which was filmed at the London Coliseum, will be available for streaming

- Manchester HOME's November work will all be live-streamed

- Andrew Lincoln has today been announced to star as Scrooge in the Old Vic: In Camera production of A Christmas Carol

Job support schemes

With lockdown comes a return of the Furlough scheme, with employees receiving 80% of their current salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500.

Update 02/11: The Chancellor has now announced that the third instalment of the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme has been increased to 80% of average trading profits for November.

Freelancers are awaiting an update for the Chancellor on the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme. Currently, that is set at 40% of average earnings over the past three years.

However, many arts workers do not qualify for either of those schemes - as, indeed, they have not qualified for any Government support since March.

Industry response

Paul W Fleming, Equity General Secretary, released the following statement:
"Equity members will have felt a mixture of rage and confusion after tonight's announcement from the Prime Minister. Our union is here to voice that anger, and provide some clarity.

For members working in film and TV we can give clarity: under this new national lockdown from Thursday, film and TV production will continue. This is testament to our success in ensuring a strong culture of testing and health & safety for our members working in those sectors. Thanks to our efforts, and those of the whole industry, a decent, albeit imperfect, insurance scheme will keep these workplaces open.

For members looking to return to work in theatre, variety, circus and light entertainment, tonight is a body blow. Live performance workplaces are the keystones of our whole industry, which is worth as much to the economy as banking. Now the government has mandated their closure they must immediately look again at the lack of funds to safely create work, a proper insurance scheme to speed up opening, and adequate funding to protect infrastructure from pubs & clubs to the West End.

Every member, however, will be sickened at the lack of any reference to the self-employed tonight. 40% of Equity members have not received a penny from the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) since March - and now they don't even deserve a mention. We need the scheme expanded and extended or the trickle of lost talent will become a flood overnight.

Finally, on behalf of Equity, I want to express our solidarity with working people across education, construction, manufacturing, the civil service, distribution and postal services, retail and of course our NHS and social care. Whether key workers keeping our society afloat, or those put at risk unnecessarily, we know that it's the workers who are the heroes of this public health crisis.

We also know that ordinary working people across the trade union movement will stand with our members as we protect our industry now, and in the months to come. They know that access to culture isn't a luxury for the few, and that without the work Equity members do as artists, entertainers and creatives this winter would look unimaginably worse."

The Public Campaign for the Arts also released a statement:
"Boris Johnson has just confirmed a second national shutdown in England. This is nothing short of a catastrophe for the arts, and for the whole country.

With more timely and effective measures to control the spread of Covid-19, fewer lives would be at risk and an extended shutdown may have been avoidable.

Instead we face a major new setback to our economic, social and cultural life. It is now the right and necessary move to save lives. But it will be a hammer-blow to the most vulnerable, and will further jeopardise the arts in our communities and society.

The arts industries have been some of the hardest hit during the pandemic. The last lockdown destroyed incomes across the sector, and for those who were just beginning a fragile recovery, this is sudden and devastating news.

With less than a week's notice, projects will once again have to be undone, jobs will be at risk and livelihoods thrown into disarray. Already, too many arts workers have fallen through the cracks of government support, and have been forced into unemployment.

The extension of the furlough scheme is welcome, but without urgent support to the whole of the arts sector - and to all workers affected by this new lockdown - there will be even greater suffering, and the UK will face an even longer road to recovery.

The Public Campaign for the Arts will continue to bring people together to advocate for the arts in every community, using tools like our Arts Map.

Please encourage people you know to join the campaign now. Together we can protect our artists and arts companies from the impacts of this disastrous second shutdown."

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