Covid Surge Closes West End Shows


LONDON — Cast and crewSeven Ways to Kill Kylie JennerAn experimental game at the Royal Court was only two weeks into its run when they received some bad news: A member of the company tested positive for the coronavirus and everyone had to quarantine.

Theater shows canceled on July 4 for one week.

The next day, the producers of “Hairspray” at the London Coliseum announced that they were canceling the nine-day shows. because a member of the production team tested positive, and later that week the Globe canceled “A performance of Romeo and Juliet“Because there was also an actor in the show.

Just this Monday, “Prince of Egypt” at the Dominion Theatre; another “Romeo & Juliet” at Regent’s Park Theatre; and “Bach and Sons” on the Bridge all confirmed or canceled for at least five days due to probable cases.

The spate of abandoned performances comes at what should have been a celebratory moment for British theatre. From Monday, UK gaming houses will be allowed to open at full capacity for the first time. since the pandemic startedfor ending restrictions on social life in an effort to bring it back to normal as the country lives with the virus. Audiences will no longer be required to wear masks in theaters, but most customers encourage them to do so.

But with coronavirus cases rising in the UK due to the more contagious Delta variant, theaters fear further cancellations given that many young cast and crew members are not yet fully vaccinated. “We’re all ready for this to happen again,” Lucy Davies, executive producer of Royal Court, said in a phone interview. “It will be fragile all summer.”

Davies said canceled shows will cause further financial stress on cash-strapped theaters, especially as no UK commercial insurance company offers coverage for coronavirus-related cancellations. And manufacturers say the British government’s coronavirus rules are part of the problem. Here, when people test positive, they all have to be quarantined for 10 days as they should be.close people” – Defined as anyone within about six feet of an infected person for 15 minutes.

in Britain, More than 42,000 new cases of coronavirus have been recorded A number seen on Wednesday, when the country was on lockdown to prevent its healthcare system from being overwhelmed. Health Minister Sajid Javid said: on monday Although hospitalizations and deaths are expected to be much lower than in previous waves of infections, daily numbers will likely rise above 100,000 during the summer months. because two-thirds of adults are fully vaccinated.

In the first week of July, more than 520,000 people in the UK were told to quarantine with close contacts, according to official figures. Even if they test negative for the virus or have been vaccinated twice, they have to isolate.

Producer Eleanor Lloyd, president of the Society of London Theatre, said most of the cancellations were due to close contacts told to isolate rather than positive cases.

Regent’s Park Theater said in an emailed statement that although subsequent tests were negative, several of its employees were told to stay home and are still in quarantine. “As the current situation is simply unsustainable, we need an alternative to automated isolation for our moving company and team,” the statement said.

From 16 August, fully vaccinated close contacts will no longer need to be quarantined. “It will get better from now on,” Lloyd said. However, there is still a month to go, and the risks may continue for longer. Therefore, he is considering hiring more substitutes for the upcoming production of Agatha Christie’s “”.witness for trial“There will be a price for that too,” he said.

London theaters have taken security measures to try to limit the risk of an outbreak. In most cases, cast and crew are tested several times a week, and masks and distance are often required offstage. But Davies said, “People go to and from the theater, and that’s a risk, no matter how safe our environment is.”

The safest productions seem to be those created specifically for these pandemic times, when social distancing is maintained between actors both on stage and behind the scenes. world used this approach For shows like “Romeo & Juliet”.

However, last Saturday, Will Edgerton, who plays Tybalt, learned that he had contracted the virus after a home test.

The Globe canceled the show that afternoon so a new actor could rehearse the role, and then resumed the evening performance. “We are unique in that Shakespeare’s plays can be presented with distance,” Neil Constable, the theater’s general manager, said in a phone interview. But if you have a big musical like ‘Prince of Egypt’ that costs millions of pounds and has a lot of people on stage, you don’t have that option.”

He said the British government should bear the risks of the theatres; It’s a sentiment that echoes calls from other leaders in the UK’s theater industry for a state-run insurance scheme. Last year the government launched a similar initiative for TV and film shoots, but did not announce anything for other forms of cultural life like European governments. Germany and Austria made.

“We understand the challenges live events have in securing compensation coverage and are investigating where further support may be needed,” a spokesperson for the UK culture ministry said in an email.

Royal Court administrator Davies said a safety net is sorely needed, especially for commercial theaters that do not receive public subsidies.

He said he had recent experience with the benefits of insurance. On Monday, the cast and crew of “Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner” were scheduled to return to the stage for their first performance after completing their quarantine – but then a severe storm flooded the theater’s basement and the show has been canceled again.

“It was devastating—it was their comeback,” Davies said, before adding that the theater’s insurers covered some of their losses that night. “We’re insured for flooding,” he said, “not just Covid.”


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