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Lloyd Webber: Theatre cancellations heartbreaking and Government doesn’t listen

Andrew Lloyd Webber said the theatre industry is being ‘decimated’ by cancellations and Covid absences (Nigel French/PA)
Andrew Lloyd Webber said the theatre industry is being ‘decimated’ by cancellations and Covid absences (Nigel French/PA)

Andrew Lloyd Webber has said it is “simply heartbreaking” to see the theatre industry “decimated” by Omicron cancellations​, adding “no-one in the Government listens”.

On Thursday night his production of Cinderella was axed due to “Covid-related absences”, alongside London productions of hit musicals Hamilton and The Lion King.

Hamilton, at the Victoria Palace Theatre, confirmed it will not go ahead on Friday night due to “Covid-enforced absences”.

Writing in the Daily Mail, Lord Lloyd-Webber said: “It has been a terrible few days and it is getting worse.

“It is simply heartbreaking for me to see our industry decimated by a situation beyond all of our control.

“We had to cancel yesterday evening’s performance of Cinderella with three hours’ notice.

“Five more members of the company have tested positive, on top of three on Thursday.

“We’re a very large production and every cancelled show is devastating, but we simply can’t rehearse around the gaps in the cast and cover the performance.”

The theatre impresario said the whole industry is experiencing the “same nightmare” – from big West End shows to local pantomimes, as well as the restaurants, bars and hotels that benefit from theatregoers.

He added: “I am nearly 74 and desperate to get back to writing again. Instead, for the last year-and-a-half, I have been campaigning for the commercial theatre industry.

“But in the end, I have come to the conclusion that no-one in the Government listens. Certainly not the new Culture Secretary, Nadine Dorries, who has made it abundantly clear that she doesn’t think commercial theatre needs any support.

“It’s a difficult message for all the industries, jobs and people who are now lurching from day to day to hear from someone who is supposed to be a Tory minister representing the arts.”

Equity, a trade union for performing arts workers, has written to Chancellor Rishi Sunak demanding financial support for people affected by Covid cancellations​.

Cabaret, featuring Eddie Redmayne and Jessie Buckley, has axed shows at the Playhouse Theatre until December 18 after members of the company tested positive.

The National Theatre has cancelled performances of Hex, based on the classic fairy tale Sleeping Beauty, and The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time, due to “ongoing cases of Covid and illness within the companies”.

Hex will resume at the National’s Olivier theatre on December 28, while Curious Incident will return to Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre on December 29.

Force Majeure at the Donmar Warehouse is also cancelled until December 29 following positive coronavirus cases in the cast.

Broadway has also been hit by cancellations, with productions of Moulin Rouge, Mrs Doubtfire, Harry Potter And The Cursed Child and Alanis Morissette musical Jagged Little Pill among those impacted.

A Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport spokesperson said: “Our unprecedented £2 billion Culture Recovery Fund has given out £1.5 billion in grants and loans, and almost £200 million to the devolved administrations.

“The £300 million third round of the Culture Recovery Fund is still open for applications, providing vital ongoing support for the cultural, heritage and creative sectors.

“We will keep the delivery of the programme under active review and consider how best to adapt it in line with the needs of the sector.”

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