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Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Cinderella” releases full album

ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER’S “CINDERELLA”

Polydor Records today released the full album of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella. The album, written and produced during lockdown in the UK, features voices from the cast of the new musical, as well as high-profile guest vocalists including Todrick Hall and Adam Lambert.  Todrick Hall contributes his unique version of ‘’Only You, Lonely You’’ – originally sung by cast member Ivano Turco – as a bonus track.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella will host its world premiere at the Gillian Lynne Theatre on July 20, 2021. Cinderella is a new romantic musical comedy based on an original story by 2021 Oscar® winner Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman) and lyrics by Tony & Olivier award winner David Zippel (City of Angels).  Laurence Connor (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor DreamcoatSchool of Rock) directs, with choreography by Joann M. Hunter. 

Recording for the album began in March 2020 and continued through lockdown with Andrew Lloyd Webber recording artists remotely and producing the majority of the score from his home. The recording process continued with socially distanced studio sessions at Abbey Road in London. 

The debut single from the album, “Bad Cinderella”, was released in October last year.  This single, the first new material released by Andrew Lloyd Webber in five years, was performed by Carrie Hope Fletcher, who stars as Cinderella. She has starred in Heathers (Theatre Royal Haymarket), The Addams Family (UK Tour), Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (UK Tour), Mary Poppins (Prince Edward Theatre), and most recently played Fantine in Les Misérables at the Sondheim Theatre. She is also a bestselling author and social media personality.    

The release of this album mirrors Andrew Lloyd Webber’s creation of a concept album for Jesus Christ Superstar before the show even debuted exactly 50 years ago this year. A string of further acclaimed releases including “I Know I Have A Heart”, “Far Too Late” and “Marry For Love” have already amassed over 5 million streams and 1 million video views.

The full track list for Cinderella is revealed below:

ACT I

  1. Buns ‘N’ Roses
  2. It Has To Be Her
  3. Bad Cinderella
  4. So Long
  5. Unfair
  6. Unbreakable
  7. Hunks’ Song
  8. Man’s Man
  9. So Long (Reprise) / Introduction To Only You Lonely You
  10. Only You, Lonely You
  11. The Queen’s Boudoir In The Palace
  12. I Know You
  13. I Know You (Reprise)
  14. The Village Square
  15. Unfair (Reprise)
  16. The Godmother’s Shop
  17. Beauty Has A Price

ACT II

  1. Fanfare
  2. The Cinderella Waltz
  3. The Ball
  4. I Know I Have A Heart
  5. Act 2 Scene 2
  6. I Am No Longer Me
  7. Moment of Triumph
  8. What Were You Thinking? /Introduction To Far Too Late
  9. Far Too Late
  10. Ego Has A Price (Reprise)
  11. The Wedding Fanfare
  12. The Wedding March
  13. The Ceremony
  14. The Vanquishing of the Three-Headed Sea Witch
  15. Man’s Man (Reprise)
  16. Marry For Love
  17. Cinderella’s Soliloquy
  18. The Wedding Party
  19. Finale

BONUS TRACKS

  1. Marry for Love (Full Version / Bonus Track)
  2. Only You, Lonely You (US Single Version / Bonus Track)

Ahead of Cinderella’s arrival at the Gillian Lynne Theatre, the building has been extensively refurbished and renovated, including upgrade works to the auditorium and Front of House.

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British Theatre Is Facing A Covid Tragedy

July 2021. UK Theatres are in limbo. By now, of course, you know the latest facts, because you live in them. 

In no particular order, over 62% of British adults are now fully vaccinated. And 84% have had one dose.

A new production of Jersey Boys is set to begin at the Trafalgar theatre next month

But the Indian or Delta variant (which is ultra-infectious, so infectious that one person may infect up to six others) has resulted in the UK having the highest infection rate in Europe. New research suggests ‘scarily fleeting’ contact could infect, and that places with high jab rates are susceptible.

Fortunately, we now have one of the lowest death rates because of the astounding vaccine programme. Indeed, now stadiums, shopping centres and theatres have joined the “grab a jab” campaign in England in a bid to boost vaccine uptake.

However, even by late August, only 39 per cent of under-40s are set to have been fully vaccinated, opening a generational divide and zero chance of foreign summer travel should vaccine passports become a thing. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock may have resigned but his successor Sajid Javid has his hands full with an NHS struggling to cope with a vast backlog of operations, treatment and surging cases.

Either way, according to the latest official figures, more arts, entertainment and recreation businesses were still suffering last month than in any other industry.

Felicity Kendall & Sutton Foster in Anything Goes rehearsals

But the show must go on, right? Major West End shows including Anything Goes and The Lion King have started rehearsals, with more set to follow; contracts have been signed, audiences have rebooked tickets (as many as four times) and the consequences of another delay beyond July 19 are unthinkable.

The pandemic has exposed the Tory government’s insulting attitude to theatre: a mixture of apathy and hostility. Despite generating billions pre-pandemic, London theatre owners and impresarios for example, claim regularly they are now “on the brink of ruin”.

Speaking to the Telegraph, Howard Panter – owner of the second-largest operator, Trafalgar Entertainment, said the situation in the West End was “intolerable”.

In the meantime, tempers (and sanity) are fraying; Andrew Lloyd Webber, Cameron Mackintosh and Sonia Friedman launched legal action to force government to publish Events Research Programme pilot results.

A masked usher awaits The Mousetrap audiences

A stretch of the imagination that might have dumbfounded me pre-pandemic, but Lloyd Webber certainly seemed to be speaking from the heart when he went on LBC recently: “Public Health England officials don’t have a clue about theatre and how they’re operated. We’ve somehow been made a sacrificial lamb.”

Alas, the long awaited report – which was released promptly after a Court order – said there were “no substantial outbreaks” identified by public health teams and their surveillance systems around any of the events.

Unfortunately, it also demonstrated that the testing regime of the Events Research Programme was pointless and incompetent, meaning it clear the government is repeating their own mistakes at a colossal cost to everyone else.

But weary theatres still need insurance to safeguard against the possibility of Covid-based cancellation, however the pandemic means that the private market will not provide it. This would help thousands of freelancers return to the industry and reassure producers, venues and artists alike.


The major issue for theatres from the West End to Liverpool Everyman is that rehearsals, preparation and planning take months not weeks and often costs thousands and thousands of pounds, and the current question marks hanging around hospitality and entertainment venues are making such work impossible or loss-making. Regional theatres dependent on income from tours will lose the very shows that might help them survive.

Temperature checks outside a west end theatre

Of course, Slytherin Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden would refer to the generous £1.5bn culture recovery fund, even if the rescue funds left the actual freelance workforce – musicians, photographers, actors, artists, dancers, choreographers, designers out in the cold. In fact hundreds of cultural organisations have still not received promised funds leaving some worse off than when they applied.  

The delaying of Step Four of the road map is a final straw for many: confidence in reopening has been shattered, despite the vast sums invested in venues to restrict Covid transmission. The creative sector must now be allowed to cautiously trade their way – at full capacity – out of difficulties and contribute to our national recovery.

It is completely stupefying that we have spent 66 weeks being told to “take responsibility” and “use common sense” by a government religiously incapable of either.

Anyway, July 19 is yet another ‘not before date’ and this week came rumblings of future winter lockdowns amid warnings from scientists. So, don’t rule out another delay to the ‘cautious but irreversible’ easing of lockdown restrictions. In fact, don’t rule out restrictions being completely ditched before a murderous third wave, subsequent U-turn and more mutant strains.

Frankly I’m not sure we will ever reconcile the impact that Covid, Brexit and the ‘streaming economy’ are having on the sector in my lifetime.

Continuing to allow galleries, art centres, opera, communities, theatres and independent cinemas to wither away is an act of profound cultural vandalism.

A socially distanced audience at the London Palladium

Hell, if a whole generation of talent goes to the wall, no one wins, the whole country will be poorer for it.

Something’s got to change. Fast.

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My 2020 Theatre Heroes & Villains

Theatre Heroes and Villains of 2020

AH, dear old 2020.

In mid-March Covid-19 prompted all British theatres and arts centres to close their doors.

From that moment onwards, the carnage, pandemonium, weirdness and misery barely let up; our world-beating £7 billion cultural sector, so savaged by lockdowns that it remains at risk of permanent decimation.

A socially distanced Watermill Theatre in Newbury, with select seats wrapped as presents for the future.

For the first time in its 70 year history, the Edinburgh Fringe was cancelled. Broadway shows are expected to remain closed through to at least May 2021.

There was, though, many great acts of heroism; not all heroes wear capes.

Let’s begin with the National Theatre. The NT at Home initiative was one of the biggest virtual triumphs of lockdown; it broadcast 16 productions for free on YouTube, clocked up 15 million views and reached 173 countries.

The one-off free streaming of Roy Williams and Clint Dyer’s potent monologue Death of England: Delroy – which had its live run cut short – was sensational.

The NT has today launched a brand new streaming platform National Theatre at Home – featuring a range of NT Live productions and, for the first time, some treasured plays from the NT archive.

For unlimited access to the catalogue on National Theatre at Home, a subscription will be £9.98 per month or £99.98 per year. For access to a single play in a 72 hour window, it will be £5.99 for an NT Archive title and National Theatre Live titles are available from £7.99.

I thought ITV’s three-part drama Quiz, written by James Graham – based on his stage play that began at Chichester Festival Theatre- was a masterstroke.

The dark irony was, though, that the ‘coughing major’ comedy was one of the few TV shows that was good enough to make us all forget the ongoing medical crisis for its duration. Graham donated his full commission to funds for freelancers.

Looking back now, one of my personal favourite moments involved a last-minute decision to throw open my Zoom on Friday evenings to anyone who wanted to take part in a theatre quiz. It was unexpectedly popular and rewarding and, in the chaos of lockdown, very moving.

ITV Quiz

During that first lockdown I came to a crossroads when I realised that the secret truth at the heart of almost all theatre is: Everyone’s Doing Their Best.

It’s hard to say why this revelation impacted me so deeply. Had I previously been under the impression that people were deliberately making terrible theatre, or simply being terrible at their jobs, just to annoy me? I came to realise that most things are simply bad by accident.

Anyway, this year, she closed 18 shows. Paused 10.

Sonia Friedman Productions continued its success at the 2020 Olivier Awards, scooping the coveted Best New Play Award for the fourth consecutive year with the intimate and epic Tom Stoppard play Leopoldstadt.

Incredibly, SFP was also responsible for a superb filmed stage version of Uncle Vanya starring Toby Jones. It was a hit in UK cinemas and will be screened on BBC Four this Christmas. This woman has been my idol all of my professional life, and I don’t think I’m alone in that.

Toby Jones and Richard Armitage, Uncle Vanya at the Harold Pinter Theatre

All year, producer Friedman used her clout to lobby government. Announcing comedy play The Comeback in the West End, she said: “Medicine saves lives, but culture makes life worth living.”

Looking back now, many of UK theatre’s producers and artistic directors rose to the challenges of the pandemic – combining laser-focus and decision making-authority with a real emotional feel for the creative workforce.

Of course, there are plenty of people in the industry who are simply phoning it in.

But so many took exciting digital work to audiences or streamed archive productions. Under Elizabeth Newman’s leadership, just one of a number of bright ideas, Pitlochry Festival Theatre set up a Telephone Club for vulnerable members of the community, Alan Lane and Slung Low continue to meet local needs distributing food and books to the people in south Leeds.

Artistic director Alan Lane, left, and The Slung Low team at the Holbeck.

The Unicorn theatre presented Anansi the Spider Re-Spun: fun virtual performances, created in lockdown, for children. Cultural organisations like this remain vital to communities, enabling young people’s creativity, whilst fighting for survival.

Throughout those initial long Covid months, there were modest acts of heroism from producer David Pugh and his touring production of Educating Rita at the open-air Minack Theatre in Cornwall. I loved it.

Pugh later made light of the fact that profits for investors were enough for ‘a meal at KFC’. The show has a week-long run at the Mayflower in Southampton in February.

To her credit, Nica Burns reopened the first West End theatres post lockdown – welcoming audiences back to the Apollo – for Adam Kay’s show about the NHS, This Is Going To Hurt. Burns will reopen the first West End musicals Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and Six and hopes this return will prove the sector is safe and ready to resume.

Staying with the heroes, film and theatre director Sam Mendes called on Netflix — who profited from the acting, writing and directing talent nurtured on stage during lockdown— to pour some of their COVID-19 cash into British theatre. Netflix obliged, with the Theatre Artists Fund for freelancers. Mendes’ practical suggestions included: increasing the theatre’s tax relief scheme from 20% to 50%, and inviting the government to become “theatrical angels”, by investing in productions.

Moreover, performers deserve huge credit for keeping us all entertained online: Rob Madge and Oscar Conlon-Morrey lift our spirits on Twitter during these difficult times.

Pick of the bunch, for me, is Kieran C Hodgson impersonating characters from The Crown – Season 4. Genius.

10-year-old ‘#CheerUpCharlie’ Kristensen released a charity single with some of his West End favourites to raise money for the Diana Award. Little legend.

The Bush theatre commissioned six black British artists to respond to the killing of George Floyd, the results, The Protest, were astonishing, disturbing, vital and offered urgent perspectives on Floyd’s death.

Wise Children’s Emma Rice and Bristol Old Vic’s Tom Morris on stage at Bristol Old Vic in September

Elsewhere, Black Broadway and West End stars performed an ambitious online charity concert, organised by Nicole Raquel Dennis and Ryan Carter, this event supported the Black Lives Matter movement: Turn Up! Live at Cadogan Hall , raised nearly £13,000 for four charities and picked up a Black British Theatre Award.

One of my biggest treats was visiting Bristol to see the Romantics Anonymous one-night only performance, with a live socially distanced audience.

In September, Emma Rice’s Wise Children and Bristol Old Vic’s Tom Morris were dazzlingly inventive, partnering with venues to present a “digital tour” of the musical – allowing individual regional theatres to sell tickets across specific nights.

The shows will go on – in some tiers. The government’s post-lockdown plans give the green light to productions fortunate enough to find themselves in Tiers 1 and 2. Boris Johnson has announced that theatres in Tier 3 will remain closed.

Oracle Cameron Mackintosh

Villains? (Deep breath)

It was the year when theatre vanished from our lives. And Cameron Mackintosh didn’t.

Disappointingly, the West End producer got rid of 850 staff early on in the crisis, said theatres that received financial aid were ones that “were going to fail”, allegedly mistreats his staff, declared himself an “oracle” for predicting disaster and has been snow-ploughing his way through the darker recesses of the pandemic ever since.

Mind you, compensation came in the form of Andrew Lloyd Webber – who took part in the Oxford Coid-19 vaccine trial – joining TikTok.

Take a moment. I know I just did.

Perhaps most importantly, Arts Council England did a good job of turning around the government’s Culture Recovery Fund and rescued struggling organisations of all shapes and sizes.

Overall, that £1.57bn rescue fund has protected our theatres, concert halls, arts centres and opera houses.

Slytherin culture secretary Oliver Dowden’s intervention was not enough to save every institution and although we were all thankful for the money, financial models are bust.

Indeed, the government continue to do the bare minimum for an estimated three million self-employed workers. At one point, Pantomime dames marched to Parliament Square.

Slytherin Oliver Dowden and Rishi Sunak

Find another job, said the surefooted chancellor Rishi Sunak. By forgetting our workforce and dismissing an entire sector, the chancellor has begun to reveal his true ideological colours. But our sector is key to our national identity, provides hope – and billions for the Treasury.

On top of that idiocy, the suggestion from the government seems to be that arts jobs aren’t viable. They are, Mr Sunak, and when the time comes, the powerhouse theatre industry will play a crucial part in the nation’s recovery.

Above all, I was appalled by The Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) who failed to inform customers how they could obtain cash refunds instead of hopeless credit vouchers. With countless shows axed or postponed, many found it impossible to get money back – not only that, ATG were not automatically refunding transaction fees, claiming this was in line with the industry’s Code of Practice (newsflash: it definitely wasn’t).

Birmingham Rep, The #LightItInRed campaign involved more than 500 buildings

At least, though, there has been some last-minute redemption for ATG; the operator has now furloughed its 2,500 casual staff and is gifting tickets for pantomimes to NHS workers this Winter, which is a Christmas miracle.

If we’re really looking for the individuals who’ll push theatre forward through the sheer force of their own imagination, in my opinion, they are more than likely to be creative freelancers. We must protect them.

And the self employed may be more widely visible through the Freelancers Make Theatre Work group, #thescenechangeproject and The Freelance Task Force. But they must never be taken for granted again.

The Theatre Artists Fund was set up to support UK theatre workers and freelancers falling into financial difficulty while theatres remain largely closed. Many freelancers have lost everything and we are losing thousands of highly skilled theatre-makers.

Saving buildings is pointless without protecting the people who make art. For now, I have financial security. That is why I plan to donate 50% of my December salary to Theatre Artists Fund.  If you are able to, so should you.

As I say, everyone has been doing their best. Stay present, thanks for reading this year, and Merry Christmas.

 

 

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What the hell is going on with The Phantom of the Opera?

The West End’s second longest running show, is to end after more than 30 years.

Cameron Mackintosh & Andrew Lloyd Webber

It reached crescendo, yesterday, when producer Cameron Mackintosh confirmed in an article for the Evening Standard that the London production has been “permanently shut down” as a result of the coronavirus.

The decision to end the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical was said to have been reached after the surprise £1.5bn rescue package for the arts “failed to materialise”.

A knee-jerk move that told us one of two things.

Either Mackintosh thinks the public are so dangerously stupid they wouldn’t notice a 1,500lb Chandelier prop on the pavement, or there’s nothing the superproducer won’t do for publicity.

This is, after all, Cameron Mackintosh: a relentless, formula-driven, and shrewd producer where spontaneity is rarely on the menu.

It is probably worth mentioning that Mackintosh (whose shows include Les Misérables and Hamilton) came in at 119th place on the Sunday Times Rich List, with an estimated wealth of £1.24bn.

Anyway, Lloyd Webber recently tweeted that he would try to preserve the “brilliant original” version of the long-running musical, when it does return.

Although, I’m not 100 per cent sure that the the old show is ever coming back. 

“On top of this,” Mackintosh continued, “Andrew and I have had to sadly permanently shut down our London and UK touring productions of The Phantom of the Opera, but are determined to bring it back to London in the future.”

What still slightly surprised me, however, was how casually and confusingly this was announced, and that all touring productions of Phantom will also cease to operate.

The musical’s world tour, recently in Seoul,  survived the pandemic, weathered a cast outbreak to become perhaps the only large-scale show running, and playing eight shows a week.

Her Majesty’s Theatre

Has Cam Mack contrived a way of automating the show, slicing production costs, and cutting royalties by installing the UK touring production in 2021?

Interestingly, Delfont Mackintosh HQ were not aware that the producer had written the Standard article until they saw the front page tweeted by George Osborne. 

Apart from the bungled announcement, though, I don’t bear Mackintosh too much resentment, The musical has had an outstandingly good 33 year run globally.

Maybe a new musical could take up residence once the overdue refurbishment is complete.

That said, what long-term business lesson will actually be learned from this? There are no signs that the producer is intending to shut down Les Miserables, for example.

But Mackintosh had ‘updated’ that original production and plonked the inferior 2010 tour staging in the recently refurbished Sondheim Theatre, minus the revolve.

Furthermore, Mackintosh went on to raise concerns about the validity of employing social distancing in theatres. 

“My loyal production and theatre management staff have been cut by 60 per cent reduced to a dedicated team who will look after these priceless historic buildings so they are ready to ramp up back into production the moment the Government accepts that social distancing, which I have been totally opposed to from the outset, is no longer a requirement.”

Twenty four house of chin stroking later and echoing what Mackintosh said in his article Lloyd Webber tweeted: “As far as I’m concerned, Phantom will re-open as soon as is possible.

Repeat ’til fade.

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Guest Blog: ‘I went along to The London Palladium test event and here is what happened.’

Theatres, concert halls and other music venues have been closed due to lockdown measures since the end of March.

When British theatres shut their doors, few could have predicted the devastation caused by coronavirus.

Despite the government’s recent surprise  £1.57bn support package, which many feel came too late, theatres across the UK are being forced to make redundancies – or even to close for good.

 In recent weeks, though, Andrew Lloyd Webber announced plans to open the London Palladium for a test pilot to see how audiences and performers could be welcomed back to the theatre, and get audience members safely back into auditoriums.

It’s no small feat with social-distancing rules in play for the foreseeable future to get any kind of show back on the road. But if anyone can, it’s the one that made a mega-musical about dancing and singing cats: Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber. 

This week I went along to the socially-distanced pilot concert featuring Beverley Knight at The London Palladium, as part of the pilot shows initiative spearheaded by the UK government and Lloyd Webber. 

The process to get these tickets was fairly straightforward: they were free and via the LW Theatre mailing list. I had to wait 24 hours for E-tickets to come through with an allocated time slot for a staggered arrival arrive. There was compulsory mask-wearing and a contactless bag check.  

The COVID-era event opened at 30% capacity, to an audience including the public and industry figures, and to demonstrate strict hygiene methods that can be used to enable UK theatres to reopen.

After E-tickets were scanned, we had our temperatures checked before being welcomed inside – if we were under 38C.

Stepping inside the subdued auditorium and with every second row empty and, seeing every other row of seating entirely marked off, as various other seats to allow for one-metre distancing between each group or “bubble” was heartbreaking at first.

Audiences from the same household could sit together.

However, the atmosphere soon became electric; you could tell that the audience were theatregoers who were emphatic to be back inside a theatre building witnessing live performance.

The Palladium has been kitted out with door handles that use silver ions to kill 99.9% of bacteria. One-way systems were in place throughout the venue, which had been cleaned with antiviral chemical fogging, too.

When the lights went down Lloyd Webber took to the stage.

“I think this amply proves why social distancing in theatre really doesn’t work,” Lloyd Webber said, adding, “It’s a misery for the performers.”

He reinforced the message that theatres cannot operate under current government guidelines. Lloyd Webber stated that Oliver Dowden (Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport) was doing his ‘best’ and talked about the importance of pantomimes for regional theatres.

He went on to reassure us that people are safer in the venue than they would be on Oxford Street. It became clear that the day wasn’t just about west end theatres, but every theatre across the country.

In this regard, The Palladium – where Knight starred in Lloyd Webber’s Cats in 2015 – is the biggest of the seven London venues in the composer’s LW Theatres group. For this special pilot performance, it held 640 people rather than its usual 2,297 capacity.

After his plea to Boris of ‘give us a date mate’ for theatres to have some idea of when they can open, the lights went down again and Backed by a six-piece band, Beverly Knight took to the stage.

Knight sang ‘Memory’ from the Lloyd Webber musical Cats and things got emotional.

Memory, all alone in the moonlight.

I can dream of the old days, life was beautiful then.

I remember, the time I knew what happiness was.

Let the memory live again.

It was as if the song was written today – and about the current situation we all find ourselves in, and many (including myself) shed a tear. 

Anyway, it was incredible to be back in a theatre and Beverly Knight put on a wonderful concert. I’m not 100% sure that this pilot will make any significant  difference in relation to theatres and their future. But it is step in the right direction.

It was poignant to see first-hand the impact of what it would mean to re-open under the current government guidelines, and to that I say, it would be more of a risk of financial ruin than remaining closed. 

Lloyd Webber called on the Prime Minister Boris Johnson to give a more specific indication of when performing arts venues can reopen. “Give us a date,” he urged.

I hope that with the success of this pilot performance the government will start taking the industry seriously and provide a date for when theatres can finally open their doors to full houses.

By Craig Legg

A week in the life of Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden

There is a problem with assuming that all politicians are idiots: more often than we realise, they are smarter than we are.

Hopelessly out-of-his-depth Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden has been busy this week. A man who has all the authenticity of a character at a murder mystery weekend; he has spent all week covering himself in infamy.

Which is fitting. The gung-ho Cabinet are behaving like a besieged rat colony.

Oliver Dowden

Oliver Dowden

The destruction of the arts and live entertainment industry seems almost too big to take in, doesn’t it? It is an impossible thing to consider. The real tragedy is not that we cannot prevent it. The real tragedy, I think, lies in the fact that we can.

Industry leaders are at their wits end from repeating the fact that 34 million theatregoers attend 63,000 performances and all the financial benefits that brings to the economy – and that is before hotels, restaurants, bars, and other economic activity.

According to The Sunday Times, theatres will ‘not reopen until next year.’ It stated that venues will be encouraged to “aggressively mothball” until they can open under profitable conditions in 2021, without social distancing. Yikes.

Indeed, Chancellor Rishi Sunak holds piggy bank. He is, though, expected to announce a cultural rescue fund as part of his mini budget on Wednesday. The package is said to be a mixture of loans and grants offering direct help to arts organisations. Arts Council England are set to get a £1.57 billion cash injection; about 90 days too late.

Dowden spoke out following criticism of his handling of the pandemic and the ways in which the arts are being supported. Or not, in this instance.

The MP tweeted after comments made by BBC Front Row’s John Wilson, who said that he’d heard that Dowden “believes UK arts are ‘better & stronger’ for NOT having the sort of financial support offered by other European countries”. When Dowden was told that “UK arts need huge new investment”, Rattle states that this “wasn’t something that was welcome for him [the Culture Secretary] to hear”.

Dowden clapped back, which was unsettling as he never replies to anybody on Twitter: “Not true. What I said was that arts organisations who have worked hard to increase income from non-government sources should not be penalised for it in this crisis. I understand the seriousness of the situation and am working on it every single day.”

The following day Dowden was at the Palladium to meet with Andrew Lloyd Webber. Sigh.

 

Last month Lloyd Webber revealed plans to test safe performances at the Palladium, with thermal imaging cameras and silver ion self-cleaning door handles to help prevent any spread of infection.

Yet the reality is that we are in the middle of a unique recession, created by deliberate Government action to save lives. All industries were put into an artificially induced coma and most of them are now being resuscitated. But the arts are being left behind and are in serious trouble.

The situation is as desperate as Dowden’s timeline.

And yet, today the MP for Hertsmere found time during his schedule to Zoom with Tom Cruise to tell the Hollywood star about the relaxing of quarantine rules meaning that production can resume on the latest Mission Impossible blockbuster.

Back to reality: the grim outlook on jobs is part of a wider picture of economic gloom; the fate of 290,000 jobs across UK Theatres hang in the balance.

The fact that Dowden worked as a special adviser and Deputy Chief of Staff to David Cameron where he said most of his time was spent on “day-to-day crisis management” makes him feel like a broad stroke in a heavy-handed satire.

Encouraging to see him building on his friend Cameron’s legacy: trotters up even before you have screwed the country, instead of only after.

Maybe this is what you get into politics for. On the other hand, is there a less self-respecting role in public life than being the haunted face of the decimation of our ‘world-beating’ theatre industry?