Theatre News

Olivier Awards nominees sign open letter stating that 'theatre is on the brink of ruin'

The open letter was sent to the Prime Minister, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden

The cast of & Juliet during the curtain call
The cast of & Juliet during the curtain call
© Dan Wooller for WhatsOnStage

A number of institutions as well as organisations, nominees and winners from this year's Olivier and UK Theatre Awards have signed an open letter calling for help for the arts community during the ongoing pandemic.

Following the constant reports that 70 per cent of venues will run out of money by the end of the year, figures including Phoebe Waller-Bridge, James McAvoy, Sharon D Clarke and more have come together to highlight the "existential threat to theatre".

In addition, the letter called for the government to help "sustain the workforce…support theatre recovery and…safeguard the future of the theatre industry".

You can see a full list of signatories and the letter below:

An open letter to the prime minister Boris Johnson, chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak and secretary of state for culture Oliver Dowden.

Dear sirs,

We are concerned that British theatre is on the brink of ruin.

Theatre is one of the UK's most dazzling success stories. In all its forms, whether drama, musical theatre, opera or dance, British theatre is a world class cultural and economic force with productions filling venues from Broadway to Beijing.

The pandemic has brought theatre to its knees. Theatres do not have the money to operate viably with physical distancing. It is difficult to see venues opening before the end of the year.

Research by UK Theatre/Society of London Theatre suggests 70% of theatres will run out of money by the end of 2020. For many, it will be sooner. Four theatres have already gone in to administration and we are concerned that number will soon rise dramatically.

Culture and creativity is playing such an important part in helping the entire nation through these difficult times. It will play a crucial role as we emerge from the crisis.

It is difficult to underestimate the importance of theatre and storytelling to our national identity. More people see a theatre show each year than attend all league football matches in the whole of the UK.

The existential threat to theatre is also one which endangers the important work that is being done to create and attract more diverse workforces and audiences.

Without government investment, theatres will be forced to close and may never return. The threat of British theatre being destroyed by accident is as real as it is bleak. It would not only be a spiritual tragedy but an economic one.

We call on the government to urgently consider the submission from UK Theatre/SOLT calling for moves to:

Sustain the workforce, through the continuation and development of the Job Retention Scheme and a new package to support the army of freelancers and self-employed artists who create so much of our work.

Support theatre recovery, through adaptations to the existing theatre production tax relief scheme, support for businesses that supply theatres, and aid with making venues Covid-19 secure.

Safeguard the future of the theatre industry, through an Emergency Relief Fund and the creation of a new Cultural Investment Participation Scheme for the sector from government: a national pledge for culture.


Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre



Independent Theatre Council

Live Comedy Association

Musicians' Union

2020 Olivier Award Nominees:

Adrian Scarborough

Alex Beard

Alex Lacamoire

Alistair Spalding

Andrew Scott

Andy Nyman

Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker

Annilese Miskimmon

Arinzé Kene

Audrey Brisson

Barnaby Race

Ben Ringham

Benj Pasek

Bill Sherman

Bob Crowley

Cassidy Janson

Charlie Stemp

Colin Morgan

Damien Jalet

Emma Laxton

Fabian Aloise

Francesca Moody

Gisèle Vienne

Gregory Clarke

Hayley Atwell

Henry Lewis

Henry Shields

Howard Hudson

Hugh Durrant

Indhu Rubasingham

Indira Varma

Israel Galván

Jac Yarrow

Jack Loxton

Jamie Lloyd

James Dacre

James McAvoy

Jason Carr

Jennifer Weber

Jo Hawes

Joanna Scotcher

Joel Horwood

Jonathan Lipman

Jonathan Sayer

Josie Walker

Judy Kuhn

Juliet Stevenson

Justin Paul

Kevin O'Hare

Lauren Ward

Lucy Anderson

Lucy Prebble

Marianne Elliott

Martyn Brabbins

Matt Cole

Matthew Bourne

Matthew Warchus

Max Ringham

Michael Keegan Dolan

Michele Austin

Miranda Cromwell

Miriam-Teak Lee

Morgan Lloyd Malcolm

Neil Austin

Oli Mears

Paloma Young

Paule Constable

Peter Roberts

Petula Clark

Phoebe Waller-Bridge

Reece Shearsmith

Richard Gadd

Robert Icke

Rupert Young

Sam Tutty

Sara Baras

Sarah Preece

Sharon D Clarke

Sophie Thompson

Soutra Gilmour

Stephen Jameson

Stephen Mear

Stewart Clarke

Stuart Murphy

Susie McKenna

Toby Jones

Tom Stoppard

Trevor Nunn

Wendell Pierce

Zizi Strallen

2019 UK Theatre Award Winners:

Emma Rice

Esh Alladi

Esther Richardson and Mandy Smith

Hiran Abeysekera

Luke Sheppard

Nadia Fall

Ned Bennett

Rebecca Trehearn

Richard Twyman

Robert Hastie