Theatre Vs Covid-19:
Where are we at now:
On the 20th March Prime Minister Boris Johnston informed all Theatres and Performances venues to close their doors to support the fight against Covid-19 just a few days later on the 23rd March the country then entered lockdown. We are now over 13 weeks into that lockdown and restrictions are starting to ease as the “R” number holds steady below 1 and deaths thankfully continue a downward trajectory. The arts world is now looking for answers, how do we reopen the industry safely? If we can’t how do we support the performers, technicians, house staff, musicians and creatives? There are no answers from the UK Government or indeed Fiona Hyslop the Scottish Minister for Culture all we can do is hope the arts come onto the agenda urgently before here is no industry to save.
For now, we Scotsgay arts though we would take a look around the country at what the latest from some our best loved venues are saying in respect of there programmes and when they hope to welcome audiences back.
South of the Border:
Things look difficult right across England, the heartland of the theatre, London’s west end remains shuttered, with acclaimed producer Sir Cameron Macintosh confirming that Hamilton (At the Victoria Palace), Phantom of the Opera (Her Majesty’s Theatre), Les Misérables (The Sondheim Theatre) and Mary Poppins (Prince Edward Theatre) will not reopen until early 2021. This is driven by the time he believes it would take to secure the theatres for Covid safe performances as well as remounting the shows themselves as there respective casts are drawn from across the world. The Theatre Royal Newcastle along with the Mayflower Theatre Southampton and the Birmingham Hippodrome have all extended closure until well into November but all have stated they aim to reopen in time for Pantomime Season. The good news is all these venues and in fact every single theatre across the country are all hard at work rescheduling as many productions as possible so check their individual websites for full details.
There is a glimmer of hope as Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber is preparing to run a Covid Secure venue test at the famed London Palladium, using technology already in use at the reopened South Korean production of Phantom of the Opera. If this proves successful it could be the key to reopening theatres across the west end and beyond for those that are able to afford the technology needed.
Back home in Scotland every single theatre continues to remain closed but what’s the news coming from each venue? We take a look at a selection from across Scotland:
Edinburgh has paid a heavy price with the complete cancellation of the Edinburgh Festival season, the annual melting point of creativity and arts will not happen this year but plans are already under way to bring the annual extravaganza back in 2021 and word is also coming from the Edinburgh Fringe Society of a online programme if we hear more we will bring that to you. What about the year-round Venues?
The Festival Theatre, Edinburgh King’s Theatre and The Studio:
The Capital Theatre’s trust operates three venues in the capital and its latest statement as of the 14th April states that all three venues will remain closed with there respective programmes cancelled until Sunday 21st June, that date approaches this weekend and it seems more than likely that closure will go on until at least the autumn. The King’s hopefully will be open for Pantomime which this year is Sleeping Beauty which is so apropos but sadly after a run of 60 years unbroken the Edinburgh Gang Show wont take place due to the complications of rehearsing the show under Covid conditions even if the theatre were available. In the meantime, the Trust have developed a fascinating online platform of behind the scenes videos and content and community engagement all this while moving as many productions from this year into 2021 and 2022 as possible.
The Edinburgh Playhouse:
The Playhouse closed just as it was approaching the end of marathon run of Disney’s The Lion King and the Front of the venue remains decked out in the Lion King Artwork. The Playhouse is a part of The Ambassador Theatre Group and their latest statement from 3rd June confirms closure of all their venues until at least the 2nd of August. Interestingly the Statement goes on to say that they have rescheduled over 15,000 separate performances with that rescheduled programme set to kick off in November. Therefore, a further notice of closure will likely be forth coming to take all their venues, which include 7 west end theatres and 24 venues around the uk into the autumn. The Playhouse themselves have done a Stirling job via there social media of announcing when productions are rescheduled, and the vast majority have been, and tickets still stand valid. Do check their website for full details for each show.
The Royal Lyceum Theatre:
Scotland’s biggest and Edinburgh’s only producing theatre has now completely cancelled its entire 2020 season taking it up to January 2021 and The Theatre, Offices, Studios, and workshops have entered hibernation with most staff placed on furlough. Sadly, we will not be seeing the Lyceum building open in any way for the remainder of the year. However the team at the Lyceum have developed the simply wonderful Digital House Lights Up Programme which includes, Curtain up which will see over 1000 patchwork panels join together to form a new curtain which will be used to reopen the theatre when the time is right. This is accompanied by Lyceum Letters a programme that sees Artists and Public joining together to share their experiences of the great theatre from across the years. The Lyceum creative Learning programme continues online and its bolstered by “Working from home” a programme designed to support performers and creatives across the industry. The Lyceum is also engaging with BBC Scotland and Screen Scotland and delivering Shorts for the Scenes for Survival. A visit to the Lyceum website during lockdown is well worth it.!
The Traverse Theatre:
The Trav may have closed its doors, and there updating the ongoing closure information via there website but they also have put together a stellar online virtual world of creative opportunities. Head to there website for full details.
The Usher Hall:
The Usher Hall is run by the city council alongside the Churchill Theatre and the Assembly room their latest statement confirmed closure until 18th of June, which has passed so expect more information from them soon. Head to their Website.
The Brunton, Musselburgh.
The Brunton is closed on a rolling basis and there updating the website with updates as and when they are able to. So, keep an eye on their website.
Moving over to the west coast, which not only houses many theatres but all Scotland’s biggest live concerts venue, so let’s check out what they’re saying:
The Theatre Royal and King’s Theatre Glasgow:
As with the Edinburgh Playhouse both these houses are operated by the Ambassador Theatre Company and their latest statement from 3rd June confirms closure of all their venues until at least the 2nd of August. Interestingly the Statement goes on to say that they have rescheduled over 15,000 separate performances with that rescheduled programme set to kick off in November. Therefore, a further notice of closure will likely be forth coming to take all their venues, which include 7 west end theatres and 24 venues around the uk into the autumn. Let hope they can open the King’s in time for this year’s magical Pantomime Cinderella.
The Pavilion Theatre,
The Pavilion, Scotland largest independent theatre has been closed since lockdown began and sadly its not the first time in recent years it sustained a long closure following the great fire of Renfield street. The theatre has been first class in maintaining contact with its audiences. The team have been hard at work rescheduling as many performances as possible, and you should check the venues website and social media for full details. While you are at it be sure to check out the Pavilions brand new video season showcasing the very best of theatres work over the years.
The Glasgow Events Campus.
The Glasgow events campus houses the Scottish exhibition and Conference centre, The Clyde Auditorium (Glasgow Armadillo) and The SSE Hydro. All events have been cancelled the SEC has been converted into the NHS Louisa Jordan an incredible achievement that was delivered in record breaking time. Although the facility itself has not been used it remains on standby in case the NHS requires it.
All Concerts and events have been either cancelled outright or rescheduled with the bulk being in 2021. There are however plans to continue with Panto at the Clyde Auditorium.
Aberdeen and Inverness:
Looking northwards the virus has impacted every single venue from small community halls to the biggest theatres so let’s take a look at:
His Majesty’s Theatre Aberdeen:
The Programme at His Majesty’s has been cancelled on rolling basis as they continue to wait for government advice which is very slow in coming, productions wise they are aiming to hopefully present there autumn season starting with Addams Family the musical in early September. This may well change, but fingers are crossed the theatre will be open in time for the panto which this year see’s it stage Beauty and the beast.
Eden Court Theatre Inverness:
Lastly but not least we look at the most northerly mainstream theatre in the UK. Eden court is mixed purpose venue that includes a Cinema as well as theatre. It latest statement confirms all venues are closed until 1st of August at the earliest. There is hope they can have there autumn and winter programme including the annual pantomime.
Given the venue also houses a cinema it may be possible to open that section of the building earlier than the theatre, but this is dependent on the government guidance. Let’s Hope it comes soon.
So, there we have it, a snapshot of where the theatrical world is in Scotland and further afield currently stands. One thing is for sure we have never seen this effect on the arts in its history and we all need to do everything we can to support our venues as and when they open. Its going to be a sad reality that we must Accept not every venue, production or UK tour will re-open in the world we are being told will be the “New Normal”. What ever that Normal transpires to be one thing rings true, Theatre in all its creative glory has survived, Plagues, recessions, and world wars. The curtains will rise again, the bigger questions are, When? And what will the inside of those auditoriums look like? We can but await the answers.