Coronavirus and local theatres


Alan Hulme, Paul Genty, Sue West


A round-up of North-West theatre Covid-19 closures and reopening plans

During the coronavirus shut down, all theatres throughout Greater Manchester and beyond are guaranteeing to reimburse patrons for cancelled shows.

Ambassador Theatre Group, owners of the Palace, Opera House and Liverpool Empire, are the main commercial operators and have a comprehensive system for refunds.

The rest are charities, mostly hoping that instead of asking for refunds, those who can afford it will donate the price of their tickets to help see them through unprecedented times.

You can read individual Coronavirus-response stories in our news section - click here.

Theatres were told they could reopen, with strict social-distancing and other measures, from August, though few have. Social distancing measures demand fewer people in each auditorium, which means theatre and tour bosses will rarely be able to break even, let alone make essential profits to continue operations. Some theatres have already announced reopening dates well into September and beyond.


Manchester Palace, Opera House, Liverpool Empire

All Ambassador Theatre Group UK venues are suspended until November 27 and ATG has just (Sep 22) announced its Manchester panto Aladdin will be postponed until Christmas 2021. Tickets will automatically be transferred to new dates if runs have been rearranged, and ticket-holders will be contacted. 

The theatres will refund money on request, but are encouraging customers to rebook for future performances. All bookings for cancelled performances will be credited or exchanged for a future show with a voucher, redeemable on until December 31. Request a voucher here. If you booked as a group, the person who made the booking should complete the form.

Secure My Booking's ticket reimbursement program doesn’t cover epidemic or pandemic, but ATG’s response to these bookings is the same as for direct bookings. Complete the request form.

More info here


The Lowry

The Lowry is closed until September 30. The theatre is contacting everyone with booked tickets, who are entitled to a refund. Like many other theatres, The Lowry is asking ticket holders to donate the cost of the tickets by not asking for a refund.

The Lowry also has an emergency appeal to support its work in the visual and performing arts: “At the heart of our work is a commitment to our local communities and young people. You can help support us through this difficult period by donating whatever you can now. Your support means the world to us".

More info here



HOME is closed until September 4 (cinemas, bars, restaurant), and on August 26 it was announced that live theatre will resume on October 13, albeit with much-reduced capacity. The theatre is contacting ticket-holders to organise refunds or replacement tickets. The theatre is also asking patrons to contribute to its Response Fund.

More info here


Hope Mill

In March the 120-seat home of new musicals had to cancel all its plans, including a couple of big premieres. The venue has become a charity and receives no government or arts funding, relying solely on ticket sales and bar income. The theatre has announced a planned reopening date on October 30 for its new production of Rent (to December 13), which was originally intended to run in July. Meanwhile the theatre is presenting a 50th anniversary, streamed concert version of a top-cast Godspell online from August 27-29, details available here. 

More info here


Royal Exchange

The theatre is closed until the autumn, but has given no reopening date. Also a charity, a large proportion of its income comes through ticket sales and the theatre has announced, to wide publicity, that it is considering making up to two-thirds of its permanent staff redundant. The theatre, with several others in the region, has just been awarded emergency funding of £571,000 under the government’s £1.57 billion fund. Exchange bosses are hoping many patrons will also donate the cost of tickets.

More info here

Royal Northern College of Music

The college is closed to students and the public until at least January 4, taking all tuition online and abandoning all planned events. In the meantime, each week the college is sharing music online from its archive of performances, as well as new contributions from staff, students and alumni.

More info here, and check the college’s YouTube channel.


Contact Theatre

Contact is running a range of online participation projects, workshops and events. The building, under reconstruction for the past two years, has recently been handed back by contractors and theatre plans involve a return to the building in September and performances from early 2021.

More info here and here


Click here to return to news page

Octagon Bolton

The Octagon's multi-million-pound rebuild had the summer shine knocked off it as many elements to complete the work were stuck in international lockdowns. The reopening has now been confirmed for December 4, but the big opening show, One Man, Two Guvnors, is pushed to next year (see separate story here). The theatre, which faces a shortfall of £500,000 this year, has had a flood of support for a crowdfunding exercise, and has kept fans entertained with a series of lively online events and news. Theatre bosses are keeping the public informed and entertained with Octagon Online.

More info here


Oldham Coliseum

The Coliseum hopes to reopen in mid-September, and plans to present some shows rescheduled from the summer (see here), but a major casualty is the theatre's famous pantomime, now pushed back to 2021. Manwhile there is a wide-ranging series of online events and attractions. Staff are contacting ticket holders to arrange refunds, though is hoping patrons might donate the cost of their tickets to help.

More info here and here


Grand Theatre, Leeds

The Grand has closed its doors and is contacting ticket holders to arrange refunds. The Book of Mormon, due to be staged in April, has been moved to March 2021. Other shows have also been rearranged and several have been cancelled.

More info here


Leeds Playhouse

The Playhouse currently has a date scheduled for a production of The Great Gatsby from September 3-12, but the production of a new musical based on the songs of Tom Jones has been postponed. The theatre will contact ticket holders to arrange refunds or donations on other shows.

More info here


Blackpool Grand

The theatre and box office are closed until further notice; sales team members are contacting ticket holders about a long line of postponed, cancelled and rearranged events originally scheduled for the theatre. Tickets will be credited automatically to individual accounts, unless staff are specifically asked for a refund. The Grand has revealed it is in dire financial peril and could close; so far more than 10,000 supporters have signed a petition to "Save our Grand" here on 

More info here


Storyhouse Chester

The theatre's successful Grosvenor Park open-air theatre festival has been reduced this year to the production in August, socially-distanced, of The Comedy of Errors. The building’s cafe, cinema and library have reopened and the main theatre auditorium has been converted into a temporary cinema space, giving Storyhouse a two-screen programme, though both auditoria are operating at 25 per cent capacity. Storyhouse has also launched Chester’s first drive-in cinema. The centre has had great success with a drive to build online membership – having signed up 3,000 fans in recent weeks, at £4 a month for a selection of online content.

More info here


Opera House, Buxton

The theatre (and associated cinema) are closed for the foreseeable future and haven’t updated their plans since June. Like many other theatres that basically exist as charities on box-office income, the Opera House would welcome donations or the writing off of refunds.

More info here


Theatre by the Lake, Keswick

The theatre is closed until the New Year. Again, the theatre is appealing to audiences to consider making a donation or donating ticket money in lieu of a refund after announcing plans to make almost 40 people redundant. All ticket holders to cancelled shows will receive exchanges, credits or full refunds. As many shows as possible are being rescheduled.

More info here


Clonter Opera Theatre, Congleton

The theatre is closed until further notice, which includes the summer opera production of The Barber of Seville, and subsequent events. Barber has now been rescheduled to next summer. Anyone with tickets for postponed events will be contacted. Currently shows from September 5 are officially listed as "under review". Clonter has launched a series of online excerpts from its productions of the past nine years, and hopes to reopen in October.

More info here


Theatr Clwyd, Mold

The theatre has been closed to the public since March and many events have been cancelled or postponed, but the theatre continues an online presence and reopened its cinema on August 28. All ticket holders for affected events will be contacted. There are now performances in the calendar for September and October, for the moment staged outdoors around the theatre. But the planned Christmas show (Beauty and the Beast, from November 20) has been postponed until next year.

More info here


Everyman Theatre, Liverpool

Some performances have been classified as postponed and will be rescheduled to later dates. If your show is postponed (see the list on the link below), the theatre asks that you wait until a new date is announced before deciding what to do. Ticketholders will be contacted when new dates are announced.

Other shows are confirmed as cancelled and ticket holders are entitled to a refund. The value can also be retained in an individual theatre account and applied to later shows, or donated to the theatre (which is a charity). Other donations will also be gratefully accepted.

More info here


Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool

The theatre has postponed its production of Mam I’m Here until next June and has cancelled its intended production of Girls Don’t Play Guitars. All main house shows have been rescheduled: Pete Price Is Dead is still slated for October 9-November 7; YNWA will move to April 23-May 22, 2021, and Macca & Beth will appear from February 5-March 6. Revised information is available on the theatre website here.

The theatre is adding extra Variety Lunch Club dates in the autumn and is also attempting to reschedule Studio shows, promising updates soon.

If you have tickets for any of these shows the box office will be in touch to arrange a move or a voucher valid for the next two years.

More info here

Click here to return to the news page

c2019 TheatreReviewsNorth