Cameron Mackintosh revealed the news in a statement today.
As with London’s restaurant industry, the West End closures have dramatically threatened jobs and livelihoods during the coronavirus pandemic. And whilst some restaurants have turned to delivery and takeaway during the crisis, and hope to reopen outdoor areas on July 4, things are less rosy for London’s theatre scene. With social distancing proving a major obstacle, and theatres unable to host performances outdoors, shows are facing an uncertain return date. That’s been brought into sharper focus today, as West End producer Cameron Mackintosh revealed that four of his blockbuster shows won’t return until 2021.
All West End theatres have been closed since March 16, and whilst places like The Old Vic have made a bid for revenue with a socially-distanced production of Lungs, other theatres and shows have elected to remain closed. Mackintosh’s quartet – Les Misérables, Mary Poppins, Hamilton, and The Phantom of the Opera – are four of the biggest shows in town, but you won’t be seeing them on a London stage for the remainder of the year.
Citing “continued uncertainty over when the government is going to completely withdraw social distancing measures and allow the safe return of theatre productions”, Mackintosh argues that without an end date for social distancing guidelines, it’s impossible for his theatres to plan for the future. As a result of dwindling revenue and an unwillingness to go into debt, Mackintosh will take “drastic steps” to survive, which includes the delaying of the four shows, and a consultation on potential redundancies.
It’s a sobering moment for the theatre world, which could be one of the last areas of British life to return to something approaching normal if the current social distancing guidelines are maintained – sitting elbow-to-elbow with your peers being a quintessential part of the London theatre experience. Mackintosh, for his part, called on the UK government to intervene, saying “it is time […] the government takes action to ensure this priceless resource at which the British people excel is helped to survive. Without our theatres being ablaze with life, London cannot properly reopen as one of the World’s greatest cities.” London would undoubtedly be poorer (in every sense of the word) without the West End, so fingers crossed we can head back to the greatest theatre scene on Earth before long.
Hamilton might not be in the West End this year, but you can find it online as the original Broadway production hits Disney+ in July.
Also published on Medium.