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Cameron Mackintosh: 'Unless we hear something in the next few weeks, we won't be back until early next year'

The producer and venue owner expects it'll be early next year before performances resume unless there are new rules about social distancing soon

Cameron Mackintosh
© Dan Wooller for WhatsOnStage

Cameron Mackintosh has weighed in on the future of West End theatres.

Talking on Michael Ball's weekend radio show, Mackintosh predicted that it might be early 2021 before performances recommence.

"It's bizarre. I love putting things together but, after 50 years in the industry, I can't make a plan because none of us know when theatre can go back into action."

Mackintosh has predicted early next year as a possible time for re-opening given the present policies and messages from the government: "My fear is, unless we hear something in the next few weeks, we won't be back until early next year."

As a theatre owner, Mackintosh has said, "it's unbelievably expensive. Financially it's draining, millions and millions are going out all the time."

Mackintosh reckons that the West End and New York may be more severely affected than a number of other countries.

"We'll be one of the last, I think, public entertainments to go back. I'm not depressed, but I'm certainly frustrated. It looks like London and Broadway are going to be the last to go back. I'm already planning in other parts of the world from September when other lockdowns cease – you know, The Phantom of the Opera has just re-opened in South Korea. We know it's going to get back eventually, but it takes months and months to get the huge shows that we do up.

"All the major producers are talking on both sides of the Atlantic. The truth is, until social distancing doesn't exist anymore, we can't even plan to re-open. From the moment social distancing is gone, it will take us four to five months to get the actors back together and re-open theatres. It's a huge thing – a big musical has 200 people working in that one building. It's why live theatre is like no other, it's so exhilarating.

"What we definitely know is that you want the audiences and actors to feel safe. You can't change the staging: you know, try doing "One Day More" six feet apart. You'd need Radio City Music Hall. And it'd be no good. An audience being spaced out would be a horrible experience."

But the economic value of live performance cannot be understated. As Mackintosh says, theatre is "such a huge contributor to the economy. Boris has a million other things to sort out, but we take one of the longest to come up. We're raring to get back."

Mackintosh has helped raise hundreds of thousands of pounds by selling the all-star staged concert production of Les Misérables online and donating five pounds from his foundation for each copy sold. You can read more here.

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