ALL major British theatres have closed their doors with immediate effect following the government’s call for “drastic action” to slow down the spread of Covid-19, including Belgrade Theatre Coventry, Warwick Arts Centre and the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC).
The Society of London Theatre (SOLT) and UK Theatre, the industry body which represents 250 British theatres and 50 London theatres announced yesterday that, as of last night, all its members would close their doors.
Across the region its members include Belgrade Theatre Coventry, Warwick Arts Centre in Coventry, Birmingham Hippodrome, Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Birmingham Royal Ballet, MAC Birmingham and the RSC.
It stated: “The safety of our audience and workforce is paramount to us as we navigate this challenging time. We, therefore, regret to announce that all SOLT & UK Theatre member venues will close this evening (including tonight’s performances) considering the most recent official government advice. They will remain closed until further notice and will re-open when possible, following government recommendations. If you have bought tickets to a show that has been cancelled, then you are entitled to a refund and your ticket provider will be in touch. Please bear with us during this time.
“The magic of theatre lies in its live performances and it is not something that can be experienced in the same way remotely. Its ability to lift people and entertain people even in times of difficulty is unparalleled and so we are extremely grateful to all of our audiences, who have continued to support us for as long as they can. We can’t wait to welcome our audiences back into the UK’s theatres as soon as possible.
“If you’re looking for ways to show your support to the theatre industry and all its hardworking professionals, please consider purchasing Theatre Tokens, which you can use once our theatres are back up and running. These can be used at over 260 venues across the country and have no expiration date.”
Chief executive Julian Bird said the closure will have a “severe impact” on the 290,000 people working within the industry.
At Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre The Twisted Tale of Hansel and Gretel and Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers starring Lyn Paul were due to run this week.
Today the Belgrade Theatre released the following statement: “Following yesterday’s Government announcements we can confirm that the Theatre is closed to the public this week (16 to 22 March) and performances, including Blood Brothers and The Twisted Tale of Hansel & Gretel, have been cancelled. Our Box Office will be in touch with anyone who has booked tickets to arrange refunds or credits. We are in the process of making plans for forthcoming shows and events. Please bear with us as we work through this and avoid contacting Box Office if possible. Any further updates will be announced on our website and social media channels.
“We want to assure all our visitors that the health and safety of our visitors and staff continues to be our priority. We are currently adhering to all guidelines issued by the British Government and Public Health England regarding COVID-19 (Coronavirus) risks. We are monitoring this fast changing situation daily and will continue to review the situation. Thank you for your patience and for your continued support.”
On March 12 Coventry’s award-winning Theatre Absolute took early action and announced it would be pulling a new break-dancing commission SHIFT, as part of its Humanistan series. It was due to be performed at the Shop Front Theatre in City Arcade from March 18 – 21.
A spokeswoman said: “In light of the latest Government update re Coronavirus and in particular the issues around social distancing, given the close proximity of artists, staff, volunteers and audiences in the Shop Front Theatre, we have taken the decision to cancel next week’s performances of SHIFT. Thank you for your continued support of Theatre Absolute and the Humanistan project. We will hopefully welcome you to the Shop Front Theatre soon!”
The Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon announced its immediate closure last night at 8pm in the following statement:
“Following government advice, and alongside other UK theatres, all RSC venues, and venues that the Company is performing at, will close from tonight. This will be for an undetermined period of time and will remain under review in line with government advice. This includes all activity at our Stratford Theatres and at other UK theatres including Matilda The Musical, Kunene and the King and all of our productions on tour.
“Please check our website over the next few days for further information regarding future performances.
“The RSC Box Office team will be in contact with bookers directly. Customers are advised not to contact the Box Office themselves as they are receiving a large volume of calls and will deal all queries as soon as possible.”
Juliet Gilkes Romero’s new play The Whip and Eleanor Rhode’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s King John were supposed to end of their run in The Swan Theatre on March 21, with Erica Whyman’s The Winter’s Tale set to open in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre on March 28 until October 2.
The latest update from Birmingham Hippodrome released yesterday reads: “Following the recommendation from the UK government today (March 16), we can confirm all upcoming performances of The Book of Mormon at Birmingham Hippodrome (March 16 up to and including March 28) will unfortunately be cancelled.
“We ask all ticket holders to avoid contacting Birmingham Hippodrome directly. The ticket sales team will be in touch as soon as possible with those affected.
“For upcoming performances from March 29 onwards, we are in discussions with producers and will keep our ticket holders informed. The safety and health of our staff and visitors is our number one priority and we will continue follow any recommendations from the relevant authorities and implement all appropriate instructions accordingly. If you are attending a future performance, our website and twitter pages will be updated regularly, please do keep checking our channels for the latest updates.”
Birmingham Rep had just announced its new 2020/21 season earlier this month and new comedy Tartuffe, a joint production with the RSC penned by BAFTA and Emmy Award-winning writers, Anil Gupta and Richard Pinto (The Office, Goodness Gracious Me, was due to open on March 20 – April 4.
The Core Theatre Solihull has announced it is currently closed and there will be no shows for the rest of the week. Cancelled shows included Foster & Allen and Jimmy Buckley. This morning it announced that ticketholders will be contacted today. A statement on Facebook said: “Thank you for your patience during this difficult and fast-changing time.”