London theatres and Coronavirus

The information on this page is correct at 17.30pm on March 20th, 2020.

What happened?

The UK has been treading softly in the matter of measures relating to the international coronavirus pandemic, basing their strategy on voluntary self-isolation and increased attention to hygiene practices such as handwashing.

March 16th was a bleak day for the arts industry (plus catering, hospitality, B&Bs, pubs, bars, and cafes).

The UK government held a press conference at 5.15pm on March 16th but refused to mandate closure of any establishment, instead “strongly advising” no one goes to them, therefore containing the outbreak of coronavirus aka COVID-19 by the limiting of social contact.

Venues were therefore left to make their own decision to remain open or close down (with the associated financial implications – voluntary closure would not allow insurance claims to be made).

How did this impact on the London theatre scene? Let’s take a look.

Before the press conference

Five theatres already made closure decisions – the Old Vic (Waterloo) curtailed its run of Endgame, the Bunker (London Bridge) cancelled its Power Share project, the Arcola (Dalston) went completely dark, the Turbine (Battersea) closed its doors, and the Finborough (a pub theatre in Earl’s Court) suspended production.

The Charing Cross had already announced that their premiere of Vanya & Sonia & Masha & Spike would not go ahead, postponed until “this crisis was over”.

Through the remainder of the afternoon there were further announcements. The Young Vic (Waterloo) ended their production of Nora: A Doll’s House a week early, the Park (Finsbury Park) cancelled first La Cage Aux Folles then announced a six-week closure, the Menier Chocolate Factory (London Bridge) cancelled Indecent, all upcoming shows were shelved at the Lion and Unicorn (pub theatre in Kentish Town), and the Etcetera (pub theatre in Camden) put the brakes on The Sadness Shuffle.

After the press conference

The Society of London Theatre aka SOLT instructed its member venues to shut up shop, affecting all big West End houses plus the Barbican, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre and Troubadour Wembley Park. This means all major plays and musicals closed with immediate effect.

The UK Theatre Association members are also expected to close, but some have not yet made statements. The Lyric Hammersmith (which cancelled the performance of Love, Love, Love last night) and Hackney Empire have not yet made conclusive announcements.

The Soho closed its doors, as did the Boulevard (Soho) The Royal Court (Sloane Square), Above the Stag (Vauxhall), and the Bush (Shepherd’s Bush) cancelled their plans including completing current runs of The High Table and Collapsible.

Pub theatres started to make their decisions as the Blue Elephant (Camberwell), Drayton Arms (Gloucester Road), Bread and Roses (Clapham) , and Chiswick Playhouse all followed the Finborough’s lead and went dark.

The Union Chapel (Islington), Wigmore Hall, Rich Mix (Shoreditch), Putney Arts Centre, Gate (Notting Hill), Watford Palace, Orange Tree (Richmond) and Poplar Union announced their doors were closed.

The National Theatre and Sadlers Wells/Peacock went dark, followed by Leicester Square/Museum of Comedy, the Bridge (postponing productions until July), , the Cockpit (Marylebone) and all ATG houses (which includes the New Wimbledon, Richmond, and Trafalgar Studios).

Shakespeare’s Globe cancelled its upcoming performances, as did the Unicorn (London Bridge), Bloomsbury, Jackson’s Lane (Highgate), The Other Palace (Victoria) and Southwark Playhouse.

The Vault Festival, in its final week of eight, pulled the plug on remaining performances. Ticket holders have until March 22 to request a refund.

The next day

Waking up to more announcements we saw the closure of Rose (Kingston), Rosemary Branch (pub theatre in Islington), Katzspace (London Bridge), New Diorama (Euston), Jack Studio (Brockley), South London (West Norwood), Queen’s (Hornchurch), Broadway (Catford), Erith Playhouse and Blackheath Halls.

Jermyn Street (Piccadilly Circus) announced their closure this morning, followed by the King’s Head (pub theatre in Islington) and Coronet (Notting Hill).

Afternoon update 17 March

The following have now posted their intention to close:

Almeida (Islington); The Place (Euston); Canal Cafe in Little Venice, who plan to do some streaming of shows; artsdepot (North Finchley); Tower (Stoke Newington); Donmar Warehouse; Little Angel (Islington); Colour House (Merton); Cecil Sharp House (Regent’s Park); Chickenshed (Southgate); Roundhouse (Chalk Farm); Fairfield Halls (Croydon); The Space (Limehouse);

Wilton’s Music Hall; Bridge House (Penge); Kiln (Kilburn); King’s Place; Horse Hospital (Bloomsbury); Redbridge Drama Centre; Kenneth More (Ilford); The Yard (Hackney Wick); Conway Hall (Holborn); The Hope (Islington), Camden People’s Theatre; Theatre Royal Stratford East; Alexandra Palace; Southbank Centre; Royal Albert Hall; The Actors Centre (Seven Dials); Greenwich;

Omnibus (Clapham); Shoreditch Town Hall; Theatre503 (Battersea) Waterloo East; Arts (home of SIX); Albany (Deptford); Half Moon (Limehouse); White Bear (Kennington); Exchange (Twickenham); and Bush Hall (Shepherd’s Bush).

The Young Vic are postponing upcoming productions of both Orfeus and Conundrum. Lyric Hammersmith is closed for the next month.

It seems likely that more announcements will be made during the day. Many of these theatres and companies associated with them need your support. If you are booked into a theatre which is not listed here keep an eye on their social media accounts.

Have patience! Many organisations are now working from home or have staff shortages, if your show is cancelled probably best to let them contact you about rescheduling, refunds etc.

March 18 update

The following venues are now closed:

London Irish Centre; Union (Southwark, desperately in need of your support); Cervantes (Southwark); Ye Olde Rose and Crown (Walthamstow); Playground (Latimer Road); Theatro Technis (Mornington Crescent); Battersea Arts Centre; CLF Art Cafe (Peckham); Bob Hope (Eltham); Hackney Empire; Bernie Grant Arts Centre (Tottenham); Gatehouse (Highgate); Riverside Studios (Hammersmith) and the Old Red Lion (Islington).

Later in the afternoon the following closed their doors:

The Questors (Ealing); Watermans (Brentford); EartH (Hackney); Stratford Circus; 1901 Arts Club (Waterloo); and the Pleasance (Caledonian Road).

Hippodrome Casino (for at least this week’s performances of Magic Mike); Epsom Playhouse; Orchard (Dartford); Bridewell (Fleet Street).

March 19 update

I checked through a few more theatre social media channels and websites and note the following venues are also closed temporarily:

Brookside (Romford); Compass (Ickenham) and Winston Churchill (Hillingdon); New River Studios (Manor House); Landmark Arts Centre (Twickenham); Incognito (Friern Barnet); Churchill (Bromley); Cadogan Hall (Sloane Square); Chelsea; Bromley Little; Beck (Hayes).

Government mandate 20th March

All theatres remaining open, along with bars, pubs, clubs, cafes, restaurants, gyms and leisure centres will close “as of tonight”.

How can I help?

Consider making a donation directly to the theatre. I have linked to the theatre websites above.

If you are booked into a show that has been cancelled, consider either accepting it as a credit against future purchases, or donating it back to the venue.

Join theatre (or company) membership schemes, and book for future shows, if they are on sale.

And don’t forget, theatres across the regions are in trouble too. Keep an eye on their socials for updates and appeals.

Support individual artist and company fundraisers if you can, or support their work on platforms like StageIt!

You can donate to various initatives such as Until The Curtains Rise.

You can pay to watch artists putting on streamed concerts through the Lambert Jackson/Theatre Cafe or Musical Theatre Appreciation Society initiatives. Follow their social media for more details.

The Actors Fund are also putting on mini online shows and interviews under the banner Stars in the House. if you’re inclined to support artists and colleagues on Broadway.

The hashtag #GigAid on Twitter is matching donors to artists.

Paul Taylor-Mills from the Turbine has set up a crowdfunder (FFF: Funds for Freelancers), as has producer Frazer Brown (Last Year’s Rent: A Hardship Fund for the Arts). Brown pledges to match all monies donated.

Adam Lenson, director and producer, has set up The Bonfire: Artist Driven New Musicals Online, while Matt Powell, director, has set up on hope: a digital song cycle, which is looking for collaborators, and which will be digitally performed next month.

Keep an eye on social media for artist and company callouts for online collaborations.

Some already announced include 64 Million Artists; the Stay at Home Festival; free “Power Hour” consultancy from Artsfundraising; and Vedi Roy’s digital portfolio of entertainment and art, launched on Twitter.

Above all, look after yourselves and each other, stay safe and look after your physical and mental health.

See you on the other side!