Last night, fifteen West End shows had to cancel because of COVID amongst the cast or crew - in at least one case this involved a single member of the backstage team. This is crazy and so difficult for the shows and audiences.
Although ticket and theatre companies tried their best to get information out to ticket holders, some of these cancellations were very last minute. Not so bad, of course, if you live in London, it might ruin a night out but in general the tickets will be re-booked or refunded.
For those living outside London, a trip to a West End show is not just the theatre tickets. A trip from "far away" may well involve booked trains, hotel and restaurants. For us, in Cornwall, the train can take 5 hours to get there and it is pretty tricky to get a train home after a show (can be done but takes around 7 hours!) so a hotel comes into play. Tickets, trains and hotels need booking in advance, restaurants less so perhaps but those not familiar with London often will book those too to ensure that they find somewhere. A last minute cancellation of a show may well come too late to cancel hotels and trains, travel may already have started - for an evening show in London we will leave in the morning to spend a little time around town - during which time we wont be checing emails for cancellation notices!
I can fully understand a growing reluctance to book tickets when a family of four, with show, hotel, train and restaurant may say goodbye to over £1,000 ....
Interesting times - Robert Iles
All these show cancellations are a living nightmare for cast and crew, a lot of whom have been without work or government support for many months. The West End and all our regional theatres have only just been able to light up again, and now they’re being dimmed.
It’s such a heartbreaking shame to see shows cancelled, for those who lose work as well as the knock on effect this has on the hospitality industry once again.
As a parent of three, it’s reached the sad point now where children no longer dare hope for things to happen. If we book a show it’s accompanied by “hopefully it’ll be able to go ahead,” or “fingers crossed it’s still going to happen.”
Perhaps more worryingly is not the immediate closure of shows but how this affects theatre long term. It’s simply not viable to shut a show, often for many days, because one member of cast or crew tests positive. How can theatres stay open long term with cancellations, postponements and lost revenue like this? The government need to come up with a better, more robust and supportive scheme for theatres and creatives in this time. - Becky Fuller