Theatre News

Equity, the Theatres Trust and more respond to the Government's new roadmap for reopening

Venues were less than enthusiastic about the news

The Curve in Leicester
The Curve in Leicester
© Ellie Kurttz

Members of the theatre community have responded to the government's plan to reopen venues – announced late last night.

Proposals from culture secretary Oliver Dowden, though laying out a number of steps to facilitate the reopening of theatres, did not any indication of dates, nor did they mention any financial assistance for artists or venues.

Equity secretary general Christine Payne said: "We are working with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on how live performance can begin again, but we have made it crystal clear to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden that without an investment plan to protect jobs and workplaces these efforts to develop return to work guidance will be meaningless.

"We delivered detailed feedback on the draft government guidance to the DMCS yesterday. In it we said that it is impossible to ignore the incompatibility of full or indeed partial re-opening for many sectors of the live performance industries under existing funding and business models. Much of the industry cannot viably operate without targeted investment in infrastructure and ongoing support for organisations and the workers associated with them – whether they are permanent employees, freelance or self-employed."

Jon Morgan of the Theatres Trust said: "The Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden's announcement of a five-step roadmap for reopening of theatres is a move in the right direction, but critically it does not offer any timescales for stages 3 to 5, the stages when audiences will be admitted to performances. Without this detail, theatres will still be unable to plan effectively for their reopening. The impact of this uncertainty is devastating for the theatre industry. Each day there is news of another theatre making large-scale redundancies and, for every day of delay, there is the grave danger of more theatres closing permanently. The government must urgently confirm ‘no earlier than' dates for stages 3 to 5 and respond to the sector's calls for a financial rescue package to protect our world class theatre. Without this critical support, we face a cultural catastrophe."

Chris Stafford, executive director of Curve Leicester, said: "Whilst good to have, unless this roadmap is accompanied by financial packages and a clear idea of timeframes, the status quo remains unchanged for many of us and the situation for our sector will continue to worsen."

Elsewhere, playwright James Graham said the roadmap was: "A reassuring flicker of light within darkness. What is still missing of course is any investment package to be able to actually do it and, without that, we can be in no doubt that the entire theatre ecology is on the verge of absolute and total collapse."

Kate Varah, execuvtive director of the Old Vic said: "I think if we had some timelines that would be brilliant, because we can then start to plan our businesses around those rough dates."

Julian Bird, chief executive of the Society of London Theatre/UK Theatre, said: "It is essential that government gives indicative ‘no earlier' than dates for stages 3 to 5 now so that the sector can plan for the future."

Bird has said that further details are vital. Without it, industry leaders "will have to assume a worst-case scenario and plan to be shut for long period. With the rest of the economy reopening quickly, we firmly believe that with the right safety processes in place, we can get back to full audiences in theatres within months. We now need government to confirm this."

Stage star Caroline Sheen added: "My seven year-old could have done this better. This is an insulting joke."