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Sonia Friedman on London's theatre closures: 'This feels like a final straw'

The producer has confirmed that hit play The Comeback will be returning

The Comeback
© Marc Brenner

Producer Sonia Friedman, who is overseeing hit play The Comeback in the West End, has issued a statement regarding the closure of London's theatres.

In it, she promised the piece would return as soon as is possible to the Noël Coward Theatre, where it has been playing since earlier this month.

Friedman said: "Following the devastating announcement that London will be entering Tier 3 on Wednesday 16 December, The Comeback performances from Wednesday 16 December onwards have been postponed.

"Having installed extensive safety measures at the theatre, for the last week of previews we have been welcoming delighted audiences to the Noel Coward Theatre to enjoy this brilliant, funny and heart-warming show. They have left the theatre uplifted, energized and reminded about the power of theatre and the vital role it can play in the mental well-being of the community.

"To have that so abruptly, cruelly and illogically ripped away is heart-breaking. Not just for those audiences but also for the entire company of performers, creatives, stage crew and other freelancers who for so long have been without work. They all now face yet more uncertainty and pain.

But let me be clear – The Comeback WILL be back. It is our intention to resume The Comeback performances as soon as government restrictions allow. Once the new dates have been finalised, the box office will automatically transfer ticket holders' booking and ticket(s) across to the closest equivalent performance within the limited run; and will contact patrons with all the new details. If ticket holders are unable to attend the new date, they are advised to contact their point of purchase who will provide further assistance.

"The new dates will be confirmed in the coming weeks. For now, I would like to recognise our entire team for their ongoing support. And, of course, especially our audiences, for your continued commitment to both our production and to our great British theatre. London going into Tier Three is yet another blow for British theatre – one it simply cannot afford after a brutal year, and one that both could and should have been avoided.

"All the effort and energy, not to even mention the expense, of re-opening shows safely has once again been undercut by a decision that will devastate our industry and its freelance workforce – many of whom have still not received any government support and now face a further loss of employment. All this despite not a single case of infection being linked to a theatre anywhere in the country.

"Theatres and producers, who have collectively lost over £1 billion in revenue since March, now face millions of pounds of additional losses and continued uncertainty for the coming months, destroying confidence in the sector that we have worked so hard to rebuild. Commercial producers - the sector's biggest employers and largest economic contributors - have received just 0.8% of the £1.57 billion Cultural Recovery Fund.

"This latest closure under Tier 3 underlines – unequivocally – the urgent need for a government-backed insurance scheme, as already provided to film and television, for meaningful compensation to mitigate impending losses incurred by productions forced to close, and for targeted support for freelance workers unable to take advantage of the furlough scheme.

"This feels like a final straw: proof that this government does not understand theatre and the existential crisis it is facing. Its short-sightedness is starting to look like serial mismanagement."

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