Boris Johnson ‘in talks’ with Andrew Lloyd Webber as PM hints Cinderella may go ahead despite lockdown delay
15 June 2021, 10:14
Andrew Lloyd Webber had earlier threatened legal action against the government and said he would risk being arrested, to open his theatres on 21 June.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has hinted that Andrew Lloyd Webber’s latest production could be exempt from the delayed lifting of final lockdown restrictions, now slated for 19 July.
In Monday’s press conference, the PM said “some theatrical performances” would be allowed at full capacity before that date, and suggested Cinderella could become a pilot scheme where no social distancing is required.
It is unclear whether any other shows, in the West End or elsewhere in the UK, will act as pilots. The current 50 percent capacity cap on audiences means that most theatres would actually lose money by putting on productions at this stage in the roadmap.
Lloyd Webber previously said he would consider suing the government to allow his theatres to open without distancing on 21 June. He later told The Telegraph that if the government should postpone lifting restrictions, he would open “come hell or high water” and was prepared to be arrested for it.
After the PM’s press conference, Lloyd Webber said he was “pleased and surprised” that Cinderella, which is due to open for previews later this month before a world premiere in July, was mentioned.
In a statement, Lord Lloyd-Webber added: “My goal is, and will always be, to fight for the full and safe reopening of theatre and live music venues up and down the country.
“I was pleased and surprised to hear the prime minister mention Cinderella as part of his announcement today, but I can’t comment further on the proposed pilot until I know more about the scheme.”
Johnson added he has “colossal” admiration for the Cats maestro, who owns seven West End venues and is one of the world’s most prolific musical theatre composers. “I think we’re in talks with him to try to make it work and we’ll do whatever we can to be helpful.”
A recent study by University College London (UCL) found theatres can reopen “safely and securely” as long as audiences wear masks, backing Lloyd Webber’s claim that theatres can be COVID-safe with the right measures in place.
As for other pilots, the government is aiming to host between 10 and 15 live event pilots in the four weeks leading up to 19 July, including other cultural events and the Euro 2020 games at Wembley Stadium.
Some musicians and theatre workers on social media have criticised Johnson and Lloyd Webber’s approach, with claims of “special treatment” for certain shows.
Meanwhile, prolific theatre owner Dame Rosemary Squire told Good Morning Britain presenters that while her own venues would “have to act within the law”, she agrees with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stance that he would open his theatres, no matter the government rules.
“His sentiment is completely spot-on. It’s devastating for our industry,” she said.
With the lifting of all restrictions delayed to 19 July, many performers and theatre workers will have to endure another full month without income.
“What we need is certainty,” Dame Rosemary added. “Because you can’t mount a major production without months of preparation. We’ve been working on the basis that the advice from the Prime Minister was right… and we have prepared everything for the end of June.
“So now, what do you do with people? Do you put them on hold, do you lay them off?”