On Wednesday 17th June, Delfont Mackintosh Theatres released a statement from Cameron Mackintosh, the producer behind Les Miserables, The Phantom of the Opera and Hamilton, which has changed British theatre for the forseeable future.
Theatres are to remain closed until 2021 at the earliest. Meanwhile, it has also been announced that the company is currently deliberating as to whether employees at their West End theatres are to face redundancy.
Mr Mackintosh announced the “decision is heart-breaking” and suggested that, despite the government engaging with requests to help, their lack of response to help the theatre industry, and lack of guidance, is to blame for the long expected closures.
He said: “So far there has been no tangible practical support beyond offers to go into debt which I don’t want to do. Their inability to say when the impossible constraints of social distancing will be lifted makes it equally impossible for us to properly plan for whatever the new future is. This has forced me to take drastic steps to ensure that I have the resources for my business to survive.”
In his statement, Mackintosh recognises that he is one of the largest employers in the theatre industry; a report released by Oxford Economics shows that up to 400,000 jobs are at risk from theatre closures, with a predicted revenue loss of £74bn.
These stark figures are causing a stir in the industry, with almost 100 leading actors across the West End signing a letter to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, and Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, expressing their fear that “British theatre is on the brink of ruin” and asking for help to save the industry.
I work in two theatres in the North West, as well as in a call centre dealing with ticketing and customer service. When the theatres shut abruptly in March, I was suddenly out of one job and the other was dealing with the fallout. Now, three months later, our fears of the theatre industry not surviving COVID-19 are being realised, and employees, like me, are fearing the loss of their jobs and entire careers.
When the theatres first closed, many of us lost promised shifts and were not told anything about whether we would be paid for weeks. Now, we’re in a similar limbo. More and more theatres are folding due to Coronavirus. Meanwhile, Cameron Macintosh’s announcement paints a dystopian future for those of us who rely on the industry for wages. Without proper guidance from the government, there are some big questions that need answering.
Despite this, there is one question that I, and other theatre employees, would like to know before anything else: do I still have a job?
Words by Hana Kelly.