The latest twist on the government's rollercoaster of changing lockdown rules means that London will go into Tier Three at midnight on Tuesday 15th December. This unexpected decision follows reports of rising Covid-19 case numbers across the capital. All indoor entertainment venues must close, alongside restaurants and bars.
This sudden move spells disaster for the West End's theatres, which began to cautiously reopen their doors this month. Super-producer Cameron Mackintosh has been quoted by Baz Bamigboye as saying "It's a Christmas fiasco" - performances of his socially-distanced concert version of Les Miserables will be put on hold, alongside other West End reopenings like Six! The Musical and Everybody's Talking About Jamie. But it's not just theatreland's big names that will suffer; fringe venues across the capital will be left in the lurch, yet again, after scrambling to launch productions in time for the lucrative Christmas season.
Julian Bird, Chief Executive of Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre, released a statement pointing to the "catastrophic financial difficulties for venues, producers and thousands of industry workers - especially the freelancers who make up 70% of the theatre workforce. We urge Government to recognise the huge strain this has placed on the sector and look at rapid compensation to protect theatres and their staff over Christmas in all areas of the country under Tier 3 restrictions.'"
London will join other major cities across the UK that are currently in Tier Three, such as Manchester and Bristol. It's unclear when the rules will change; but the roll-out of the vaccine, which began earlier this month, offers a ray of hope for theatres in 2021.
Cover image: The cast of Les Miserables: The Staged Concert which will be forced to close from Wednesday onwards. Photo: Michael Le Poer Trench