With the U.K. government pushing back Step 4 of its reopening roadmap in light of the continued coronavirus crisis, theatres in the West End and beyond will have to wait longer than anticipated to reopen at full capacity.
When the timeline was proposed in February, Step 4 was penciled in for June 21 (though a date was never set in stone). In an effort to increase vaccine distribution before reopening, Step 4 now won’t go into effect until July 19. (If numbers improve between now and then, the Prime Minister’s office says, that date could be pushed to July 5.)
The news delivers a blow to several theatre companies and other arts organizations that had been preparing a comeback for this month. Generally, the West End has found ways to present some productions during the pandemic when guidelines would allow. Many shows played to reduced audiences, offering hope that the show would go on, even if in not the most economically sustainable way. Shows that have reopened already and were planning to scale up to full houses will now have to weigh whether to continue running at diminishing returns.
Andrew Lloyd Webber, one of the country’s more vocal and prominent figures in the movement to reopen the arts and culture sector, has threatened legal action should his new Cinderella musical not be able to begin as planned June 25, going so far as to say he would rather be arrested than keep the theatre closed.
Pilot programs to test safety protocols at various venues, including theatres, will continue during the extended shutdown. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has indicated that Cinderella may be a part of these initiatives, though to what extent that would keep the show on schedule—or quell any litigation—remains up in the air. “I was pleased and surprised to hear the PM mention Cinderella this evening,” Lloyd Webber tweeted, “but I can’t comment further on the proposed pilot until I know more about the scheme.