Entertainment

Culture Secretary says intensive work is under way to restart theatre industry

Live performances remain banned as part of the Government's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Culture Secretary has said he is working “intensively” to ensure theatres can reopen, adding that the pantomime season is “key” to their success.

Oliver Dowden made the comments after visiting the London Palladium, where he met with composer Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Mr Dowden tweeted: “I saw v comprehensive safety measures in place at London Palladium this morning with Andrew Lloyd Webber and Public Health England.

“Despite the huge challenges, we’re working intensively with them and others to get theatres open as soon as safe and I know that panto season is key.”

While pubs, bars and cinemas are set to reopen on Saturday, live performances are set to remain banned as part of the Government’s ongoing response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Dire warnings have been issued about the future of the theatre industry if additional support is not given to venues.

Tamara Harvey, artistic director of Theatr Clwyd in Mold, North Wales, warned last week that there is a “very real danger” that the Government’s failure to provide enough help to the theatre industry will result in venue closures.

Last week the Theatre Royal in Newcastle announced plans to make half of its staff redundant and the Theatre Royal Plymouth said they are starting consultations about job losses following a plunge in revenues.

The Ladbrokes Winter Carnival – Ladbrokes Trophy Day – Newbury Racecourse
Lord Lloyd Webber has said he wants to prove the industry can restart (Nigel French/PA)

Lord Lloyd Webber has previously called on the theatre industry to be more “positive” about its future amid the pandemic.

Last month he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme it has been “absolutely awful to see everything that I’ve loved in my life gone”, adding he wants to “prove” they can reopen.

He added that he hoped to trial measures used for a Phantom Of The Opera show in South Korea, and had ordered hygienic door handles and thermal imaging cameras.

Lord Lloyd Webber said that he was planning to do a “whole series of tests” at the London Palladium.

Mr Dowden has previously unveiled a five-stage plan that could see the return of the performing arts.

The next stage is outdoor performances with socially-distanced spectators, as well as pilots for indoor performances with a limited crowd.

It then allows for performances to take place inside with a limited, socially-distanced audience, before performances are permitted both indoors and outdoors, with more people allowed in the audience.

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