La Clique returns to the West End for festive season!

La Clique

Let the festivities begin, as LA CLIQUE makes its triumphant return to London’s West End this Christmas with an incredible new show in The Leicester Square SpiegeltentSaturday 13 November 2021 to Saturday 8 January 2022 (Press night Thursday 18 November 2021.)

LA CLIQUE is the perfect Christmas night out with its magnificent melange of award winning, world class circus and cabaret favourites, performing alongside the brilliant La Clique Palais Orkestra, in the beautiful mirrored Leicester Square Spiegeltent.

Funny, cheeky, naughty, gasp inducing and stuffed with plenty of WOW, LA CLIQUE is the ultimate ‘let your hair down’ live show.

Full casting is announced for LA CLIQUE’s 2021 Leicester Square run:the fire-breathing, sword-swallowing, Heather Hollidayquick change artiste and hand balancer Mirko Köckenbergerthe Incredible Hula Boy Craig ReidLondon based aerialists and France Has Got Talent finalists Hugo Desmarais and Katharine ArnoldAustralian burlesque queen J’aiMimeHackney born aerial artist LJ MarlesAcclaimed New York-based saxophonist Leo Pand the breath-taking, heart-stopping roller skating acrobatic duo Pierre and Steph, the third generation of the world famous The Skating Willers family Accompanying this stellar line up will be the La Clique Palais OrkestraLA CLIQUE is directed by David Bates with musical direction by Dannie Bourne. LA CLIQUE in Leicester Square Speigeltent is produced by Underbelly in association with David Bates.

Full casting is announced for LA CLIQUE’s 2021 Leicester Square run:

  • the fire-breathing, sword-swallowing, Heather Holliday
  • quick change artiste and hand balancer Mirko Köckenberger
  • the Incredible Hula Boy Craig Reid
  • London based aerialists and France Has Got Talent finalists Hugo Desmarais and Katharine Arnold
  • Australian burlesque queen J’aiMime
  • Hackney born aerial artist LJ Marles
  • Acclaimed New York-based saxophonist Leo P
  • and the breath-taking, heart-stopping roller skating acrobatic duo Pierre and Steph, the third generation of the world famous The Skating Willers family

Accompanying this stellar line up will be the La Clique Palais Orkestra.

LA CLIQUE is directed by David Bates with musical direction by Dannie Bourne.

LA CLIQUE in Leicester Square Speigeltent is produced by Underbelly in association with David Bates.

Listings Information

The fun and unmissable festive treat!

Expect the unexpected!

Dates: LA CLIQUE is back from November for 8 weeks only!!


 Venue: The Leicester Square Spiegeltent

Christmas in Leicester Square WC2H 7NA

Time: Tuesday – Thursday 7.30pm

TimeFriday and Saturday 7pm and 9.45pm

Time: Sunday 5pm

*Some timings change performance to performance. Please check the website for the most up to date times.

Running time: 105 minutes – including an interval

Ticket Prices: from £21.00 (includes £1.50 in fees per ticket)

Box Office: Online or in person at Christmas in Leicester Square from 12 November.

Advice: Recommended for over 16s. Under 16s must be accompanied by a responsible adult.

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Full cast announced for West End production of Noël Coward’s classic comedy Blithe Spirit

Madeleine Mantock

It was announced today that Madeleine Mantock will make her West End debut to play Elvira to complete the cast of the upcoming West End production of Blithe Spirit which stars Jennifer Saunders.  Madeleine recently played ‘Macy Vaughn’; a series lead in Charmed for CBS Studios and ‘Miss Clara’, in the BBC adaptation of Andrea Levy’s novel The Long Song.  Other TV credits include: Casualty, The Tomorrow People,  Age Before Beauty and Into the Badlands.  Films include: Edge of Tomorrowwith Tom Cruise,Breaking Brooklyn and The Truth Commissioner.

Jennifer Saunders, one of the UK’s most popular comic actors, will revive her role as the preposterous clairvoyant Madame Arcati. She is joined by original cast members GeoffreyStreatfeild who will star as Charles Condomine, Lisa Dillon as Ruth Condomine, Simon Coates as Dr Bradman, Lucy Robinson as Mrs Bradman, and Rose Wardlaw as Edith. Theproduction brings together a distinguished and multi-award-winning creative team, directed byformer National Theatre director Sir Richard Eyre with design by Anthony Ward, lighting by Howard Harrison, sound by John Leonard and illusions by Paul Kieve. Written in 1941, Coward’s inventive, witty and meticulously engineered comedy proved light relief and a popular distraction at the height of World War II when it was first staged. The show had a record-breaking run in the West End and on Broadway and remains one of the playwright’s most popular works. Novelist Charles Condomine and his second wife Ruth are literally haunted by a past relationship when an eccentric medium inadvertently conjures up the ghost of his first wife, Elvira, at a séance. When she appears, visible only to Charles, and determined to sabotage his current marriage, life – and the afterlife – get complicated.

Noël Coward was an English playwright, composer, actor, producer and director. His dramas include Hay Fever and Private Lives. For filmhe wrote and directed the Academy Award-winning In Which We Serve and the screenplay for Brief Encounter.

Jennifer Saunders is well known as one half of the comedy duo French and Saunders, for which she and Dawn French received a BAFTA fellowship in 2009, and for the hit comedy series and subsequent film, Absolutely Fabulous, which she also wrote and starred in. She has received numerous awards including two Emmys, five BAFTAs and four British ComedyAwards.

Geoffrey Streatfeild has appeared on TV in Spooks, The Hollow Crown, The Thick of It andThe Other Boleyn Girl, and on film in Making Noise Quietly, The Lady in the Van, Kinky Bootsand A Royal Night Out. Stage credits include the Histories Cycle (RSC), Cell Mates(Hampstead), The Beaux Stratagem (National Theatre) and My Night with Reg (Donmar).

Lisa Dillon starred as Mary Smith in the BBC series Cranford. Her stage credits include Richard Eyre’s Private Lives in the West End,the RSC’s The Roaring Girl and The Taming of the Shrew, A Flea in Her Ear and Design for Living at the Old Vic and The Knot of the Heartand When the Rain Stops Falling at the Almeida.

Simon Coates’s stage credits include Richard III (Almeida), 1984 (West End), The CherryOrchard (Royal Exchange, Bristol Old Vic), King John (Shakespeare’s Globe). He has alsotoured the UK with Regeneration, The Misanthrope, Romeo & Juliet and The Hypochondriac.

Lucy Robinson’s stage credits include Waste, The Hard Problem (National Theatre), Handbagged (Vaudeville), Sweet Bird of Youth (Old Vic), In the Next Room (Theatre RoyalBath). Her many TV credits include Cold Feet, Coronation StreetCall the Midwife, Doc Martin, Doctor and Pride and Prejudice.

Rose Wardlaw recently performed in Outlying Islands at the King’s Head. She has previously appeared in Eyam, The Winter’s Tale (Shakespeare’s Globe), Jubilee (LyricHammersmith) and Great Expectations (West Yorkshire Playhouse) and, for television, Call the Midwife and Doctors.

Sir Richard Eyre was at the helm of the National Theatre for 10 years and is the winner of five Olivier Awards including a Lifetime Achievement Award. His numerous hugely-acclaimed productions include Guys and DollsThe Invention of Love and Private Lives. His award-winning film and television work includes Iris, Tumbledown and The Children Act.

Anthony Ward has designed numerous productions including the Tony Award-winning MaryStuart, the Olivier Award-winning Oklahoma! and What’s on Stage Award winner Chitty ChittyBang Bang.

Howard Harrison is a two-times Olivier Award-winning lighting designer whose recent works include Impossible and Mamma Mia! (London, Broadway and worldwide).

John Leonard is an award-winning sound designer and has worked extensively across the UK including at the National Theatre, Almeida, Royal Court, Chichester Festival Theatre,Birmingham Rep and Manchester Royal Exchange.

Paul Kieve is an internationally renowned illusionist whose recent theatre credits include Matilda (West End and UK tour) and Groundhog Day (Broadway). He is the co-creator of David Blaine Live and Dynamo’s international tour and consultant on the live shows for DavidCopperfield, Penn & Teller in Las Vegas and Derren Brown.

Blithe Spirit is presented by Theatre Royal Bath Productions, Lee Dean and Jonathan Church Theatre Productions.   The show had a sell-out run at Theatre Royal Bath as part of its 2019Summer season, a UK tour and a short run of just 12 performances before the country’s firstlockdown curtailed its six week run at the Duke of York’s Theatre in March 2020.

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Anything Goes gave me one of the best nights in a theatre — ever. 

An actual show at the theatre. Wow indeed.

Financially, theatre is unviable. Yet at the Barbican in London right now, it’s never looked so enticing, beautiful and well produced.

Helmed by three-time Tony-winning director Kathleen Marshall, Anything Goes is the real deal.

Cheeriness is contagious, folks.

Photo credit: Tristram Kenton

It has been a long time coming, but Cole Porter’s Anything Goes is the biggest new musical to open since the lifting of social distancing curbs on July 19.

Felicity Kendal is genuinely hilarious and brilliantly camp in her non-singing role. Gary Wilmot is thoroughly entertaining – that man is kind of amazing – throughout and theatre legend Robert Lindsay is cleverly funny as Moonface Martin – America’s 13th Most Wanted Man.

He is perfectly matched by chipper and demure Broadway star Sutton Foster making her UK debut as Reno Sweeney, who gets to sing some of Porter’s greatest songs including I Get a Kick Out of You and Blow, Gabriel, Blow

Reprising the role that won her a Tony Award a decade ago, from beginning to end Foster blazes through this feel-good show. She is full of jagged gestures. 

The story is nautical farce, but this is inconsequential. Even if you have never seen the musical, you know the songs.

However, if your main anchor is being offended by everything, then you must stay at home. The source material can, obviously, feel jarringly out of date.

Photo credit: Tristram Kenton

Basically, the gangsters are sex-crazed, women are leggy and there is a repressed aristocrat that sings about having ‘a bit of gypsy’ in him. 

In fact, the lines leading into song The Gypsy in Me have been tweaked, thankfully. 

Unworthy critics will fail to ruin the magic of a magnificent production like this. We all know that these glitzy shows are from another era.

The dancing here is exceptional. When did you last experience the truly awe-inspiring sight of two mid-show standing ovations? 

Having said all that, this is a triumphant, world-class, rousing piece of musical theatre. 

This magnificently starry production proves most captivating, while ultimately raising a toast to the redemptive power of theatre. It is pure escapism.

Basically, Anything Goes gave me one of the best nights in a theatre — ever. 

Anything Goes runs at the Barbican until 31 October 2021 

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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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From staplers to potatoes – it’s monster producer Scott Rudin

To Kill a Mockingbird focuses on that gut instinct of right and wrong, it is a timeless classic.

By way of a recap, Broadway producer Scott Rudin is accused of assaulting employees in a devastating new Hollywood Reporter exposé.

One of the most harrowing accounts involved Rudin, 62, smashing an Apple computer monitor on an assistant’s hand. Yup.

Scott Rudin

Scott Rudin

Meanwhile, to the audible shock of those who work in theatre, Rudin is also accused of throwing a glass bowl at someone from his HR department. It missed and shattered against the wall. Thank goodness.

For context, Rudin’s theatre projects extend into Broadway reopening, with a revival of The Music Man starring Hugh Jackman.

Along with co-producers Sonia Friedman and Barry Diller, Rudin is due to bring To Kill a Mockingbird to the Gielgud Theatre in the West End in March 2022.

Admittedly, Rudin joins the long list of high profile industry figures who believe it is their right to abuse their power.

Some revelations to the story, though, have really bothered me.

Worse was to come: one of those who has spoken out is the brother of a former assistant to Rudin who tragically committed suicide. 

Just awful.

“Every day was exhausting and horrific,” a former assistant, who worked for Rudin from 2018–2019, recalled.

“Not even the way he abused me, but watching the way he abused the people around me who started to become my very close friends. You’re spending 14 hours a day with the same people, enduring the same abuse. It became this collective bond with these people.”

Bullying is a repeated pattern of abuse of power designed to dominate those perceived as inferior, as weaker. Side affects include depression, anxiety, panic attacks – it’s a major risk factor for mental health.

Also, a former assistant claims that Rudin “relished in the cruelty” and “hundreds and hundreds of people have suffered” from his behaviour.

Other details? He fired someone for having diabetes, threw potatoes at someone’s head and reportedly assaulted staff, sending colleagues to the hospital twice.

Needless to say, leading figures are betraying their status by not making a stronger stand against these shocking revelations.

Ultimately, this is not restricted or confined to Scott. This happens everywhere.

I have been through this kind of experience myself; as a child, I was assaulted, and it is one of the things that motivated me to speak out when things are not right. Unfortunately, my own career has never been short of abusers, monsters and egomaniacs.

As for the wider implications of this scandal for Broadway and beyond, it would be easy to get carried away. On the other hand, you certainly wouldn’t rule him out making some sort of return in due course.

In 2014, Page Six ran an article about Rudin: “The Man Known as Hollywood’s Biggest A-hole,”that alleged that Rudin had pushed assistants out of moving cars and fired assistants for bringing him the wrong muffin, mispronouncing names, and, at least in one instance, having to attend a funeral.

Unfortunately, Rudin is still today boosted by enablers who looked the other way or ignored these rumours, allowing accusations to remain an “open secret” for years.

In 2018, he was making history with Aaron Sorkin’s To Kill A Mocking Bird, which shattered an 118 year record by earning more than $1.5 million in one week.

For those wondering when things will die down, I spoke to a made-up theatre scientist who calculated that moment will come at the precise second that anti-Rudin coverage stops grossing more than Rudin productions in 2022.

To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird

Like Kevin Spacey before him, it will be hard to believe the frightful bollocks about those “not knowing” spouted by rich and powerful colleagues. 

The industry silence about this alleged physical abuse and personality faults of Rudin are unforgivable, yet easily explained. They depend on him for their income. 


Look Ahead: Theatre Streaming in March

At last! A roadmap – the prime minister has announced a timeline for when theatres and other live events venues may be able to reopen.

All being well, indoor and outdoor theatres will be allowed to reopen with social distancing from May 17.


Anyway, here are some of the best shows streaming online now or later in March.

Whatever you decide to stream this month – please check out Richard Blackwood in Soho Theatre’s breathless reimagining of the tragic final hours of Christopher Alder’s life: Typical is a terrific and powerful monologue that deserves another life when All This is over.

Richard Blackwood in Typical

Morgan Lloyd Malcom’s Olivier Award winning Emilia will be streaming for all of March on a pay what you decide basis (from £1.00). A blazing take on Emilia Bassano, a 17th century poet who struggled to get her voice heard in a patriarchal world. Now you know.

Kiln Theatre is streaming a reading of new play Girl on the Altar by Marina Carr, streams for free on 5 March.

A new folk musical, by Robin Simões da Silva and Annabel Mutale Reed, Brother will be streamed live from Southwark Playhouse – the show follows a young transgender man finding his way in the world. Streaming live 5-6 March.

Recorded at the London Palladium and hosted by Sheridan Smith, Musicals: The Greatest Show featuredMichael Ball, Nicole Scherzinger and more belting West End classics with a couple of songs from recent British hits Six and Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. Not awful and still available on BBC iPlayer. 

Musicals: The Greatest Show – Layton Williams

The Barn Theatre in Cirencester’s latest digital offering is a multiple-choice cabaret featuring 14 musical performers. Conceived by Ryan Carter, The Secret Society of Leading Ladies is a clever concept; there are a possible 150 combinations in which to see a five-song concert. Available until 7 March.

The Old Vic has revealed two commissioned monologues created to mark International Women’s Day on March 8: Putting A Face On by Kiri Pritchard-McLean and Regina Taylor’s Aisha (the black album). Available on YouTube for free. 

Adam Kashmiry plays himself in excellent play Adam, the story of a transgender man who sought asylum in Scotland. Now, the BBC has teamed up with National Theatre Scotland for a specially crafted recording as part of the BBC Arts Lights Up for New Culture in Quarantine season. Following its BBC Four premiere, Adam will be available on BBC iPlayer.

The Whip, Juliet Gilkes’s resonant play about 19th-century slavery-abolition legislation, has had a new audio recording commissioned by the RSC. On YouTube until 16 March.

The Picture of Dorian Gray, adapted by Henry Filloux-Bennett and director by Tamara Harvey is a starry digital adaptation of the Oscar Wilde classic with Gray depicted as an “influencer”. Streams 16-31 March.

Last year’s virtual celebration of the work of Stephen Sondheim, Take Me To the World is still available on YouTube – why not watch it again on Steve’s birthday, Tuesday  22  March. I’ll drink to that!

By the way, the original 1980 Broadway production of the Stephen Schwartz musical Pippin –  directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse  –is available to stream on Amazon Prime.

If you have a show streaming during the month of March or suggestions for my blog get in touch – this will be updated weekly. Cheers! E:


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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Olivier Award winners 2020

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

The winners of this year’s Olivier Awards have been announced.

The 2020 Oliviers featured performances from nominees Sam Tutty (Dear Evan Hansen) and Miriam-Teak Lee (& Juliet). It was an honouring of the best west end performances and productions of 2019.

Which feels like a lifetime ago.

The majority of the show was pre-filmed in and around the London Palladium, featuring a mixture of the winner’s announcements, performances, interviews, and more.

An audience was non-existent, Jason Manford and the winners were hardly in the same postcode, or popped up on a flat screen and a handful of nominees inexplicably performed at the bottom of a staircase.

Indeed, the fact it was on at all is a bit of a production miracle, even if it looked slightly bereft, on TV.

Also, a shame that Amélie went home empty handed. But here we are.

God, I miss theatre.

Elsewhere, three time Olivier winner Sharon D. Clarke honoured Sunset Boulevard and legendary lyricist Don Black, who received the Olivier Special Award for contribution to theatre. Black was presented his award by Andrew Lloyd Webber and HRH The Duchess of Cornwall.

HRH Camilla went on to make a heartfelt speech, thanking theatre workers for their ‘determination and flexibility.”

She added: “Please remain resilient. We need you and have missed you.”

Anyway, Ian McKellen was celebrated for his solo show, Ian McKellen On Stage, which toured over 80 venues, raising funds for different charities. 

Originally planned for April, this ceremony was moved online featuring an initial bout of awards, plus an inexplicable late night Sunday slot on ITV.

It was a personal highlight to see Miriam Teak Lee win Best Actress in a Musical for & Juliet; the show belongs to her.

Theatre plays a role in all our lives.

Read the full list of winners (in bold) below

Best Supporting Actor in a Musical

David Bedella, & Juliet, Shaftesbury Theatre
Stewart Clarke, Fiddler on the Roof, Playhouse Theatre
Jack Loxton, Dear Evan Hansen, Noël Coward Theatre
Rupert Young, Dear Evan Hansen, Noël Coward Theatre

Best Supporting Actress in a Musical

Lucy Anderson, Dear Evan Hansen, Noël Coward Theatre
Petula Clark, Mary Poppins, Prince Edward Theatre
Cassidy Janson, & Juliet, Shaftesbury Theatre
Lauren Ward, Dear Evan Hansen, Noël Coward Theatre

Original Original Score or New Orchestration

Bill Sherman and Dominic Fallacaro, & Juliet, Shaftesbury Theatre
Musical supervisor and arrangements by Barnaby Race, Amélie the Musical, The Other Palace
Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, orchestration by Alex Lacamoire, Dear Evan Hansen, Noël Coward Theatre
New orchestrations by Jason Carr, Fiddler on the Roof, Playhouse Theatre
Music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles, Waitress, Adelphi Theatre

Best New Dance Production

La Fiesta by Israel Galván at Sadler’s Wells
Ingoma by Mthuthuzeli November for Ballet Black at Royal Opera House – Linbury Theatre
Mám by Michael Keegan-Dolan for Teaċ Daṁsa at Sadler’s Wells
Vessel by Damien Jalet & Kohei Nawa at Sadler’s Wells

Outstanding Achievement in Dance

Sara Baras for her choreography and performance in Ballet Flamenco – Sombras at Sadler’s Wells
Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker for her performance in Mitten Wir Im Leben Sind/Bach6Cellosuiten at Sadler’s Wells
Gisèle Vienne for her choreography of Crowd, presented by Dance Umbrella at Sadler’s Wells

Best Entertainment or Comedy Play

Emilia, Vaudeville Theatre
Fleabag, Wyndham’s Theatre
Magic Goes Wrong, Vaudeville Theatre
The Upstart Crow, Gielgud Theatre

Best Theatre Choreographer

Fabian Aloise for Evita at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
Matthew Bourne and Stephen Mear for Mary Poppins at Prince Edward Theatre
Jerome Robbins and Matt Cole for Fiddler On The Roof at Playhouse Theatre
Jennifer Weber for & Juliet at Shaftesbury Theatre

Best Musical Revival

Evita, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
Fiddler on the Roof, Playhouse Theatre
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, The London Palladium
Mary Poppins, Prince Edward Theatre

Best Actor in a Musical

Andy Nyman, Fiddler on the Roof, Playhouse Theatre
Charlie Stemp, Mary Poppins, Prince Edward Theatre
Sam Tutty, Dear Evan Hansen, Noël Coward Theatre
Jac Yarrow, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, The London Palladium

Best Actress in a Musical

Audrey Brisson, Amélie the Musical, The Other Palace
Judy Kuhn, Fiddler on the Roof, Playhouse Theatre
Miriam-Teak Lee, & Juliet, Shaftesbury Theatre
Zizi Strallen, Mary Poppins, Prince Edward Theatre

Best Play Revival

Cyrano de Bergerac, Playhouse Theatre
Death of a Salesman, Young Vic and Piccadilly Theatre
Present Laughter, The Old Vic
Rosmersholm, Duke of York’s Theatre

Best Family Show

Mr Gum And The Dancing Bear – The Musical!, National Theatre – Dorfman
Oi Frog & Friends!, Lyric Theatre
To The Moon And Back, Barbican Theatre
The Worst Witch at Vaudeville Theatre

Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre

Baby Reindeer, Bush Theatre
Blues in the Night, Kiln Theatre
Our Lady of Kibeho, Theatre Royal Stratford East
Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner, Jerwood Theatre Upstairs at the Royal Court
Warheads, Park Theatre

Best Lighting Design

Neil Austin, Rosmersholm, Duke of York’s Theatre
Paule Constable, The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, National Theatre – Dorfman
Howard Hudson, & Juliet, Shaftesbury Theatre
Bruno Poet, Uncle Vanya, Harold Pinter Theatre

Best Sound Design

Gregory Clarke, Rosmersholm, Duke of York’s Theatre
Emma Laxton, Emilia, Vaudeville Theatre
Ben and Max Ringham, ANNA, National Theatre – Dorfman
Ben and Max Ringham, Cyrano de Bergerac, Playhouse Theatre

Best Costume Design

Hugh Durrant, Goldilocks And The Three Bears, The London Palladium
Jonathan Lipman, Fiddler On The Roof, Playhouse Theatre
Joanna Scotcher, Emilia, Vaudeville Theatre
Paloma Young, & Juliet, Shaftesbury Theatre

Best Set Design

Bob Crowley, Mary Poppins, Prince Edward Theatre
Soutra Gilmour, & Juliet, Shaftesbury Theatre
Rae Smith, Rosmersholm, Duke of York’s Theatre
Rae Smith, Uncle Vanya, Harold Pinter Theatre

Best Actor in a Supporting Role in a Play

Arinzé Kene, Death Of A Salesman, Young Vic
Colin Morgan, All My Sons, The Old Vic
Adrian Scarborough, Leopoldstadt, Wyndham’s Theatre
Reece Shearsmith, A Very Expensive Poison, The Old Vic

Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Play

Michele Austin, Cyrano de Bergerac, Playhouse Theatre
Sophie Thompson, Present Laughter, The Old Vic
Indira Varma, Present Laughter, The Old Vic
Josie Walker, The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, National Theatre – Dorfman

Best New Opera Production

Berenice, Royal Opera House – Linbury Theatre
Billy Budd, Royal Opera House
Hansel and Gretel, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
Noye’s Fludde, Theatre Royal Stratford East

Outstanding Achievement in Opera

Jette Parker Young Artists for their performances in Berenice, Death In Venice and Phaedra at Royal Opera House
The Children’s Ensemble for their performance in Noye’s Fludde at Theatre Royal Stratford East
Martyn Brabbins and James Henshaw for their conducting of The Mask Of Orpheus for English National Opera at London Coliseum

Best Actor in a Play

Toby Jones, Uncle Vanya, Harold Pinter Theatre
James McAvoy, Cyrano de Bergerac, Playhouse Theatre
Wendell Pierce, Death Of A Salesman, Young Vic and Piccadilly Theatre
Andrew Scott, Present Laughter, The Old Vic

Best Actress in a Play

Hayley Atwell, Rosmersholm, Duke of York’s Theatre
Sharon D Clarke, Death Of A Salesman, Young Vic and Piccadilly Theatre
Juliet Stevenson, The Doctor, Almeida Theatre
Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fleabag, Wyndham’s Theatre

Best Director

Miranda Cromwell and Marianne Elliott, Death Of A Salesman, Young Vic and Piccadilly Theatre
Jamie Lloyd, Cyrano De Bergerac, Playhouse Theatre
Trevor Nunn, Fiddler On The Roof, Playhouse Theatre
Ian Rickson, Uncle Vanya, Harold Pinter Theatre

Best New Play

A Very Expensive Poison, The Old Vic
The Doctor, Almeida Theatre
Leopoldstadt, Wyndham’s Theatre
The Ocean At The End Of The Lane at National Theatre – Dorfman

Best New Musical

& Juliet, Shaftesbury Theatre
Amélie the Musical, The Other Palace
Dear Evan Hansen, Noël Coward Theatre
Waitress, Adelphi Theatre

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London Palladium Panto 2020: Pantoland at the Palladium:

Christmas isn’t cancelled: The London Palladium Panto, produced by Qdos Pantomimes, will happen this Christmas for a 5th year and in These Uncertain Times that’s something to hold onto.

Pantoland At The Palladium

Pantoland At The Palladium

Pantoland at the Palladium will star Julian Clary, Ashley Banjo and Diversity, Beverley Knight, Jac Yarrow, Nigel Havers & more.

Capacity at the Palladium has been reduced to 640 socially distanced seats to comply with Covid-19 guidelines. In addition to hand sanitation, face coverings and track and trace, other measures will include contactless tickets, temperature testing and deep cleaning of the iconic theatre between shows.

Now you know.

Pantoland at the Palladium will run from Dec 12- Jan 3 and tickets go on sale at 10.00am tomorrow.

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An Open Letter to Cameron Mackintosh

Dear Cameron,

I was disappointed to read your comments in The Times that the commercial, large-scale west end is more deserving of government support than subsidised theatres in light of the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.

Your claims that theatres receiving financial aid were ones “that were going to fail”, and were those that were “vaguely solvent or been able to look after their money” were harmful. Indeed, stupid.

Furthermore, I, like many of my colleagues was saddened to read that you felt the need to lay off 850 casual and freelance staff.

Global recession aside, you could have taken the hit to support workers until the end of October and still protected your significant wealth.

Needless to say, your recent article for the Evening Standard told me only two things: where you are at, and just how out of touch you are.

It would be cynical, of course, for one to suggest you are saying things to distract attention from less flattering areas of your business – the complaints about alleged working conditions at Delfont Mackintosh, your grotty stance on Brexit or the recent debacle with The Phantom of the Opera in London.

So, can I encourage you to dismount the high horse, admit your political bias and adjust your perspective? I understand it is hard for a creative spirit like yours to lie low for too long.

What you should be doing, of course, is dreaming up bold and imaginative new ways to see us through these difficult times. God knows we need that.

Regrettably, what you are actually doing at the moment, is undermining an industry on its knees. And that is wrong. And it’s disappointing.

Regional theatres may not be at the top or your agenda but they are the bedrock of our culture – dismiss that civic role at your peril.

Arts centres and theatres outside the M25 in villages, towns and cities lend UK theatre its authentic diversity and richness. Much of their success comes from the provenance to a particular community. Everything is interlocked.

One sentiment that we can both agree on is that it is good business to do good business; I know that you pride yourself on your acumen.

For some of us, away from the glittering west end it’s choosing, if able, to shop with local businesses over big supermarket chains.

For other’s it’s seeing sense in taking a short-term hit on that pricier but more robust hoover because you really don’t want to buy more than one between now and death. There’s a lot to be said for consumer choice, ethics and brand reputation.

Theatre is hard work. It’s also an industry that’s now harder than ever to access if you’re working class. If you’re born outside of London.

With this in mind, theatres across England have had no choice to respond to the difficult challenges posed by prolonged austerity and a decade of funding cuts; their increased reliance on income from box offices, cafes and bars has made them uniquely vulnerable.

I’ve always admired your dedication to refurbishing your theatre buildings; investing significant money in making them fit for 21st century audiences.

Quite simply, though, theatre is about the people and the talent, not just the bricks and mortar.

Yours sincerely,

Carl Woodward