Regional Leader Leicester Haymarket Closes in JulyDate: 20 May 2003
In a shock announcement, staff at the Leicester Haymarket learned this morning that the theatre, one of UK's regional powerhouses, will close this summer at the end of its current season. A spokeswoman told Whatsonstage.com that the closure would not be permanent, but was an emergency decision, approved last night by the theatre's board and approved by the Arts Council, in order to avert a financial crisis and stem losses which, for the last financial year, are estimated at £450,000.
The Haymarket programme - which includes the first major regional production of Martin McDonagh's The Cripple of Ininhmaan, starting performances this week - will continue as advertised until the end of July 2003. According to the proposed five-year business plan, public performances will resume in 2004, with the theatre reopening in full in 2006 as part of a new performing arts centre in Leicester. During the closure, a reduced core of theatre staff will stay on to develop new projects and oversee educational and other specially funded programmes.
In a statement issued this afternoon, Arts Council England commented on Leicester Haymarket's closure: "We accept the recognition by the Board that Leicester Theatre Trust faces serious financial difficulties, which need to be addressed if the theatre is to survive and continue to serve the people of Leicester and the surrounding areas. We recognise that the solution to the financial difficulties is likely to mean radical and painful change and that the theatre will need a one-off investment to meet the costs of change. We will work with Leicester Haymarket and endeavour to assist them through a process of business recovery."
Theatre management promised that "we are committed to doing the best for our staff" who are now facing mass redundancies. A 60-day consultation period with staff and union officials will begin today. Last autumn, non-performing staff at the venue made headlines when, with the backing of its union Bectu, they voted to strike in protest over low pay, the first industrial strike action at a British regional theatre for more than a decade.
Founded in 1973, Leicester Haymarket - with two auditoria (a 750-seat main house and 120-seat studio - pictured) - celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. Under the leadership of Paul Kerryson, artistic director for the past ten years, the theatre has built up a formidable reputation for high-quality programming, with an increasing emphasis on new writing and productions that cater for the local Asian community.
The theatre is also well known for its musicals, many of which have transferred to the West End. These include Kerryson's 2002 production of Rodgers and Hart's On Your Toes starring Adam Cooper, which will be remounted this summer for a limited five-week season at London's Royal Festival Hall (See News, 7 May 2003).
- by Terri Paddock