Theatre Vs Covid-19:
Where are we at now:
In our last Arts News Item in the Theatre vs Covid -19 series published on August 26th we looked at the cancellation of Pantomimes across the Country and the financial burden it was placing on the venues and production Houses. As of this writing the allocation of the UK Governments £1.57 billon support package has still to be released to help those who are in desperate need. Although there is better news north of the border with the Scottish Government announcing the first two tranches of funding to support the industry.
While some venues are receiving funding and limited guidance on the route map back to reopening, the scores of freelance creatives and artists are now forced into survival jobs and as Covid is clearly going through a second wave the Scottish Government have delayed the re-opening date three times and counting.
Venues and producers now clearly see that neither Government will offer the support that needed for those who need it most, therefore the fight back to reopening must be done by the industry itself. Every single member of the industry stands united, we are ready for the challenge we will make the curtains rise once more, so lets take a look around the country and how the theatre is beginning its fight back to life.
The Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh: Christmas Tales
A collection of new tales for Christmas by Andy Cannon, Hamaad Chaudhry, Tony Cownie, Robert Softley Gale, Louise Ironside, Jackie Kay, Denise Mina, Mara Menzies, Karine Polwart, Lynda Radley, Shona Reppe, and Morna Young
Directed by Zinnie Harris and Wils Wilson
Designed by Tom Piper
Join Lyceum Theatre this season for a Christmas offering unlike any other. Lyceum Christmas Tales is an advent calendar of 12 stories for audiences in Edinburgh and beyond, combining online and live performances of new and familiar festive tales penned and performed by some of Scotland’s best-loved writers, musicians and artists. On 1 Dec, a free 15 minute Christmas story will appear on The Lyceum Website for families to share at bedtime. Then, a brand new story will appear every other day until the 16th of December – 8 free stories in all. You can visit watch them on the venues website as they appear – or they can be sent them direct to your inbox at home – just sign up for Christmas Tales by E-mail . Each fifteen-minute, family-friendly festive tale will be available to watch free throughout December, with stories ranging from tales of Christmas elves and angels to dung beetles and Greyfriars Bobby.
LYCEUM CHRISTMAS TALES LIVE
The final 4 Chirstmas Tales will be performed together in a special live show with musical interludes on a transformed Lyceum stage between 16-20 December. Sadly due the socially distant nature of the seating the run is sold out, however there are plans for the live shows to be streamed.
For full details of the Lyceums Productions go to: https://lyceum.org.uk/whats-on/production/lyceum-christmas-tales
PANTOLAND AT THE PALLADIUM
Thanks to a funding initiative with the National Lottery that’s only available to Qdos Entertainment An announcement from Qdos and LW Theatres of October 9th confirmed that this Christmas Julian Clary will take socially distant audiences on a magical trip to Pantoland at The Palladium. Performances will begin at the world-famous theatre on 12 December 2020 running until 3 January 2021, with tickets now on sale.
The London Palladium, the home of pantomime, will welcome back panto favourites Paul Zerdin, Nigel Havers and Gary Wilmot, as well as past stars Ashley Banjo & Diversity and Charlie Stemp. Making their debut will be West End sensations Beverley Knight and Jac Yarrow.
Returning for a fifth consecutive year, The London Palladium pantomime has become an essential part of Christmas in the West End, with record-breaking box office success year-after-year. Pantoland at The Palladium, devised by Michael Harrison, will be a treasure-trove of The London Palladium panto past and exciting new surprises written especially for the show, guaranteeing an unmissable treat for panto and musical theatre fans alike.
Celebrating the very best of pantomime, with comedy in abundance, this star-filled extravaganza will play to a socially distanced audience. The show will feature the work of Olivier Award-Winning Team director Michael Harrison, choreographer Karen Bruce, set designer Ian Westbrook, costume designer Hugh Durrant, lighting designer Ben Cracknell, sound designer Gareth Owen and composer and orchestrator Gary Hind.
The production at The Palladium has been made possible as a result of a creative initiative announced by The National Lottery today which it hopes will enable hundreds of thousands of theatregoers to enjoy socially distanced pantomime this Christmas in theatres across the nation. The initiative will see The National Lottery buy seats that need to remain empty to enable social distancing, complying with relevant government and public health guidance. By making it viable for theatres to open their doors to the general public, up to 250,000 tickets are expected to be available, with more than 20,000 free tickets available for National Lottery players and the rest to go on sale. This will generate vital income for theatres and help restore jobs – while providing much-needed cheer for panto lovers at Christmas.
Pantoland at The Palladium is the first of a number of productions at theatres across the country to be announced, with Newcastle Theatre Royal and the Birmingham Hippodrome already confirmed for new pantos and further venues to be confirmed in the coming weeks.
Director and Producer Michael Harrison said:
“Pantoland at The Palladium promises to be a spectacular and exciting celebration of this wonderful art form that has been so devastated and decimated by COVID-19.
There is no doubt producing a show of this size and scale is a risk – but it is a risk we have to take. This is not a long term fix, nor a solution to the tragic situation our industry is in, it simply provides a sticking plaster on a very big theatrical wound as we hopefully prepare for full openings in 2021.
As well as bringing our wonderful audiences back, we want to play our part in the rehabilitation of London’s vibrant West End. The production is made possible by the sheer goodwill, determination and courage of so many people – thanks to them over 200 people will now have jobs over Christmas.”
Chairman of Qdos Entertainment, Nick Thomas added:
“I’m delighted that Qdos Entertainment is able to return to The London Palladium this Christmas. Having produced more than 750 pantomimes across the UK over the past 37 years, it would have been unthinkable for us to have a Christmas without the magic of panto. Thanks to our partnership with The London Palladium we are able to give tens of thousands of theatregoers the opportunity to enjoy some very much needed theatrical magic with their families this Christmas.”
Andrew Lloyd Webber said:
“Christmas 2020 needs a Pantomime, and this one at The London Palladium has never meant so much to our industry and our audiences. LW Theatres operates as a not-for-profit and we are delighted that The National Lottery’s support will enable Qdos Entertainment and Producer/Director Michael Harrison to stage this socially distanced production at The London Palladium, alongside many others across the nation.
Opening Pantoland at The Palladium will provide crucial support to struggling restaurants, hotels and other hospitality businesses across the West End, leading to thousands of vital jobs on stage, off stage and backstage.
Since theatres were closed in March, we have spent considerable time, effort and money, making The London Palladium Covid-secure. Using all our knowledge and experiences from around the world, we ran a pilot at The London Palladium for Public Health England and the government to demonstrate that theatres can be a safe environment for our audiences.
By next Spring, our major productions across London’s beloved West End must – and will – be back. I sincerely hope that this pantomime brings a moment of much-needed festive cheer as we continue to fight for the revival of our wonderful and vital theatre industry.”
It not clear if Qdos’s three Scottish venues, His Majesty’s Aberdeen, Kings Theatre Glasgow, Glasgow Sec and King’s Theatre Edinburgh will benefit from this as the arts and covid restrictions are devolved under the Scottish Government we can but hope. There is also chance the palladium panto will be broadcast so maybe even us North of the border will benefit.
For full info on Pantoland at the Palladium go to:
Les Misérables returns to the Barricades.
The Britain’s Got Talent 2020 Finale featured a powerhouse performance of Sir Cameron Macintosh’s biggest shows, Mary Poppins, The Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserable the all star concert cast in performance which moved the nation. Sir Cameron took to the stage to announce the return of Les Misérables – The Staged Concert for a six-week limited run at the Sondheim Theatre from 5 December 2020 – 17 January 2021, coinciding with the musical’s 35th year on Shaftesbury Avenue.
Les Misérables -The Staged Concert broke box office records and sold out its entire 16 week season when it ran last year at the Gielgud Theatre. Its all-star cast, led by Michael Ball as Javert, Alfie Boe as Jean Valjean (Alfie will alternate the role with John Owen Jones), Carrie Hope Fletcher as Fantine and Matt Lucas as Thénardier will return alongside a company of over 50 actors and musicians.
Cameron Mackintosh said:
“the beautiful new Sondheim Theatre will re-open its doors so audiences can once again leap to their feet thrilled by Victor Hugo’s timelessly uplifting story of the survival of the human spirit told through Boublil and Schönberg amazing iconic score – Let The People Sing. Happy Christmas to us all.”
Covid safety measures and social distancing will be in place front of house, on stage, backstage and throughout the building.
For full details of the special concert performances go to:
The smash hit musical has moved London home and has left The Arts theatre to the larger Lyric Theatre for a special festive socially distant season, kicking off on 14 November and running through 31st January 2021. The company will then decant back to The Arts Theatre with performances recommencing 2nd March 2021. The Company have also confirmed the UK Tour will recommence with socially distant performances at the Lowry in Salford at the stunning Lyric theatre (the Lowry houses both the Lyric and Quays Theatre, don’t confuse the west end and Manchester shows when booking.
For full details go to: https://www.sixthemusical.com/
Manchester based Hope Mill Theatre company had originally scheduled Jonathan Larson’s classic rock opera “Rent” for the spring of this year before Covid forced a cancellation. However, the company are back! With a socially distant season already sold out to capacity run.
However, there is still time to enjoy the show via the online portal on selected dates for full details go to:
While the industry has a very long way to go and the hurt and suffering will go on for so many, this is the start of the way back, The theatre and arts have survived hundreds of years, through depressions, War, power cuts crippling funding cuts each time its those inside the industry the performers, musicians, front of house staff, the legends of backstage, critics, writers, producers the list is endless have always united in the common good. We may not agree with every choice or decision taken as we make the journey back to our theatres being fully re-opened with Social distancing a thing of the past.
However, it’s clear we must stand united and strong, we are viable, we are worthy, and we give us much to the economy as every other industry. The Government believe they have done enough, the sad reality is its barely scratched the surface and their unwillingness to listen speaks volumes.
For far too many theatres and performances spaces the Ghost lights will continue to burn bright and strong, there auditoriums and stages waiting to be lit once more. The journey to that point starts now, so let the work begin.