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Theatres hoping to bounce back from new lockdown devastation

Six: at The Lowry for Christmas
Six: at The Lowry for Christmas

After the major blow to the performing arts dealt by the Prime Minister on Saturday night, theatres are trying where they can to overcome the devastating effect of a new lockdown.

In many cases venues had just reopened for the first time since March, or were about to reopen and had announced Christmas shows and winter seasons. Many plans have ben left in disarray.

But culture secretary Oliver Dowden has thrown venues a lifeline by confirming that rehearsals and streamed performances can still continue during the one-month November lockdown from Thursday – providing members of the public aren’t admitted.

“Arts venues are places of work, and people can work if it cannot be undertaken from home. This includes rehearsals and performance,” he said. A spokesman for his department said the government is “committed to getting the curtain up at venues across the country, as soon as it is safe”.

Plans were badly hit at Hope Mill in Manchester, where artistic director Joseph Houston announced that Rent, the show that reopened the theatre after the March lockdown, would be its last for the time being.

“Once again we find ourselves in a difficult and heartbreaking situation following the government’s planned national lockdown,” he said.

“It is with a heavy heart that we announce the final public performance of Rent will take place on November 4. Our run was due to end on December 6, and with more uncertainty about an official opening date for theatres, we will not be reopening this production.”

But all is not lost for fans of the hit production, since it has been recorded for live streaming.

Some theatres have plans to live-stream productions online over the coming weeks, while others have said they plan to carry out rehearsals for shows now due to start in December.

Producer of Six, Kenny Wax – due at The Lowry from December 4, just two days after the expected end of the new lockdown, and due in the West end from November 14 – said he intends to begin rehearsals in the hope the theatre will reopen in time.

“When restrictions are lifted, we will be ready to go,” he said.

Another theatre making the best of the new lockdown is HOME Manchester, where all its stage productions planned for November will now be live-streamed instead, with full coronavirus measures to ensure the safety of cast and crew.

The shows include the world premiere of David Hoyle’s A Grand Auction of My Life, along with

Javaad Alipoor’s The Believers Are But Brothers, Bert and Nasi’s The End and Beats and

Elements’ High Rise eState of Mind. Also included in the “indoors” season is Daniel Kitson’s Dot. Dot. Dot. which was conceived as an online show.

Following the Government announcement on Saturday, HOME put into action plans to switch the shows to be available to an online audience. HOME will also host a stream of Daniel Kitson’s Dot. Dot. Dot. which was conceived as an online show.

Each show will be filmed with strict Covid-19 protocols in place, ensuring the safety of cast and crew.

HOME director and CEO Dave Moutrey said: “We have always known this was a possibility, and have been working to not only produce live events but also to always have a Plan B.”

HOME has also reiterated its commitment to freelances. Moutrey added: “We’ll continue to invest in commissions and develop new projects and we’ll redouble our efforts to make sure there’s work out there for freelancers.”

During the first lockdown, HOME and its partners commissioned the Homemakers series of online works, which was seen by audiences in 34 countries. The series is available online until December 31.

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