In the wake of yesterday's cancellation of new musical Cinderella's opening night, Andrew Lloyd Webber took to the stage at the Gillian Lynne to comment upon the fact that theatre is "on its knees" under the current isolation system.
At the moment (until rules shift on 16 August), anyone who is contacted for having been in close proximity to someone who has tested positive must isolate for a maximum of ten days, even if they have personally tested negative. It was confirmed that one member of the Cinderella company had tested positive, but every other team member on the show had not. From 16 August, anyone who has been double-vaccinated does not need to isolate if coming into contact with a Covid-positive individual.
Reflecting on the circumstances, Lloyd Webber said: "We can't go on like this. I'm thinking of our audiences, yet again we've had to say to a whole load of audiences 'sorry, we can no longer perform…it's no longer viable, completely untenable.
"I'm speaking as Andrew Lloyd Webber, friend of the cast and all the people on our show, but also as Lloyd Webber, passionate lover of all theatre. This government does not understand that theatre is the lifeblood of our cities – every other country in the world seems to. It's not just about actors – it's about everyone who depends on us – the taxi drivers, the restaurants, the dry cleaners, it's an endless list. Theatre is a huge revenue driver for the country. "
He added: "This building here has 100 per cent fresh air – the best ventilation you can find. We can't go on like this, theatre is on its knees. There's no way forward. I beg the government to realise – we have the testing system, we have everything in place to keep people safe. Let us get on with our jobs. We cannot carry on with this current system. It simply doesn't work."
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden responded to Lloyd Webber's comments in a tweet last night (the first time he has acknowledged the difficulties around isolation rules, despite the fact that dozens of shows have been affected by the issue), saying: "Whilst the need to self isolate is an economy wide issue, I recognise the particular challenges it presents to the arts and I'm strongly making the case for that in government."
An announcement on the show's future plans is expected in the coming days. The production briefly put dates back on sale and confirmed new dates from 18 August on 21 July – but this has subsequently been reversed as the show was said to be testing its website – we await further details.