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Producer Sonia Friedman: 'Get this wrong, and we wipe out an entire sector'

As the theatre community reacts to the roadmap delay, the Cursed Child producer issues a warning

Sonia Friedman
© Dan Wooller

Stage producer Sonia Friedman, responsible for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, The Book of Mormon, Leopoldstadt and the Re:Emerge season at the Harold Pinter Theatre, has warned of lasting consequences if the government does not work closely with the commercial theatre sector to explore ways to reopen venues beyond socially distanced capacities, as well as provide insurance to help producers facing financial peril.

Writing in The Telegraph, Friedman stated that the UK's theatre industry might be facing "imminent catastrophe" without further state support – particularly given that, with the imminent four-week delay to "Step Four" in the roadmap to reopening, many producers have already begun rehearsing for non-distanced, fully attended productions. As the producer puts it: "contracts have been signed, commitments made, the costs are climbing."

Friedman also highlights the fact that, while the subsidised sector has received a large amount of support from the UK government's Cultural Recovery Fund, the commercial sector has received "pitiful amounts". Early today, another producer Rosemary Squire confirmed that, while her company Trafalgar Entertainment had applied for the fund, it had not been successful.

The situation is dire for these producers, Friedman has said, given that "commercial producers face an impossible challenge as they try to fill theatres against a backdrop of chronic uncertainty with finite resources and next to no government support."

Friedman compares the tough circumstances to those in the US, where the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) helps to protect producers in case further restrictions need to be imposed. Nothing comparable exists here.

As it stands (even with rumours of a government-backed insurance scheme on its way), the Cursed Child producer warns that "we are sleepwalking into oblivion."

Rather than just highlighting the scary circumstances we face, Friedman offered solutions: for government and commercial producers to work together to open safely and with certainty. She finishes: "Don't give us that responsibility without providing the support. Before the pandemic, if producers got thrown off the horse, then we got just back on it again. That's not what I'm talking about. Get this wrong, and we wipe out an entire sector."