Andrew Lloyd Webber and struggle to stage coronavirus safe shows
It’s a nail-biting time for anyone in the arts and entertainments industry. The future of our theatres remains in the balance as we try to find a way through the nightmare of the coronavirus pandemic.
Last week Andrew Lloyd Webber proved that under strict new measures brought in to ensure the safety of performers, technicians and audiences it is still possible to stage a big show. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem remotely economically viable.
His special test pilot performance found singer Beverly Knight appearing at the London Palladium. But the show was only possible with a drastically reduced audience. Several of the front rows of seating had been removed to distance the stage from the audience and there were only 640 people allowed in the 2,300 capacity theatre.
There was also an extraordinary raft of extra measures brought n to satisfy public health requirements. These included as a condition of entry the need for all audience members to have their temperatures checked, to fill out an NHS test and trace form and wear face-masks.
Meanwhile the theatre had to instigate enhanced cleaning and hygiene procedures and even had to change the door handles so that any human contact is now with material using silver ions designed to kill bacteria.
It all sounds like a pretty joyless experience and one that is both costly and unlikely to appeal to potential audiences.
Lloyd Webber himself was singularly unimpressed, saying that observing the guidelines suggested by the government as necessary before for arts venues can reopen was “not economically possible”.
“The average play needs a 65 percent capacity, while the average musical needs more. That’s before it even starts to repay anything,” he said.
This is true of venues of all sizes. There are hundreds of theatres and arts centres around the country wondering how, when and in some cases whether they will ever be able to stage an event again. There will undoubtedly be some casualties - performers, venues and producers cannot survive on thin air. There is a need for government help. not just for the big theatres and institutions but small community theatres too.
Meanwhile we wait and hope for a safe and reliable vaccine.
At Clive Conway Productions we are confident that shows will eventually return with many existing and replacement bookings looking potentially viable. So hang on in there and keep an eye on this website for further information.