Relief for London theatres amid return to Tier Two lockdown… but despair for Tier Three playhouses

West End theatres were today thrown a lifeline and told they can reopen ahead of Christmas – while dozens of playhouses across England have been left in despair after their regions were placed under the toughest level of Covid restrictions.

Government ministers today announced that London will returnt to Tier Two when the national lockdown ends on December 2.

Shows including Six, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and The Play That Goes Wrong will all be able to go ahead as planned under the restrictions – which allow for theatres to reopen. 

But while there was a major boost for the West End, today’s announcement dealt a crushing blow to theatres in the north of England, much of which is now in Tier Three.

The toughest Tier Three curbs, which will be in place in cities such as Manchester, Newcastle and Birmingham, will mean theatres will have to remain closed.

West End musical Dreamgirls was due to show at the Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham next month as part of a UK tour, which has been postponed.

And pantos including Sleeping Beauty, featuring comedian Jason Manford, which was due to take place at the Manchester Opera House is now facing cancellation.

Speaking about the announcement, Julian Bird, chief executive of the Society of London Theatres and UK Theatre, said: ‘Today’s Government announce is a relief for theatres in Tier 1 and 2 areas, including London’s West End, but equally devastating for Tier 3 areas yet again forced to postpone or cancel shows – including Pantos, usually a highlight for families and a vital source of income for theatres around the country.

Theatres in London's West End were today they can throw open their doors once more ahead of Christmas - but dozens of theatres across England have been left in despair in the wake of tough new restrictions. Dreamgirls was due to feature at the Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham in December, but the UK tour has been suspended

Theatres in London's West End were today they can throw open their doors once more ahead of Christmas - but dozens of theatres across England have been left in despair in the wake of tough new restrictions. Dreamgirls was due to feature at the Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham in December, but the UK tour has been suspended

Theatres in London’s West End were today they can throw open their doors once more ahead of Christmas – but dozens of theatres across England have been left in despair in the wake of tough new restrictions. Dreamgirls was due to feature at the Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham in December, but the UK tour has been suspended

Shows including Six, Everybody's Talking About Jamie (pictured) and The Play That Goes Wrong will all be allowed to go ahead as planned under the Tier 2 restrictions - which allow for theatres to reopen

Shows including Six, Everybody's Talking About Jamie (pictured) and The Play That Goes Wrong will all be allowed to go ahead as planned under the Tier 2 restrictions - which allow for theatres to reopen

Shows including Six, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (pictured) and The Play That Goes Wrong will all be allowed to go ahead as planned under the Tier 2 restrictions – which allow for theatres to reopen

Pantos including Sleeping Beauty, featuring comedian Jason Manford (pictured: The poster for the show), which was due to take place at the Manchester Opera House are now facing cancellation

Pantos including Sleeping Beauty, featuring comedian Jason Manford (pictured: The poster for the show), which was due to take place at the Manchester Opera House are now facing cancellation

Pantos including Sleeping Beauty, featuring comedian Jason Manford (pictured: The poster for the show), which was due to take place at the Manchester Opera House are now facing cancellation

The Nutcracker at the Royal Opera House in London has been told it can go ahead (pictured)

The Nutcracker at the Royal Opera House in London has been told it can go ahead (pictured)

The Nutcracker at the Royal Opera House in London has been told it can go ahead (pictured)

What London theatres are due to have shows on after December 2 

Apollo Theatre

December 6-7: Roles We’ll Never Play

December 12: Everybody’s Talking About Jamie reopens

December 21: The Vivienne’s Christmas

London Palladium

From December 12: Pantoland at the Palladium

National Theatre

From December 11: Dick Whittington  

Sondheim Theatre

From December 5: Sondheim Theatre Les Miserables

Vaudeville Theatre

From December 9: Mischief Movie Night 

Charing Cross Theatre

From December 8: The Elf Who Was Scared of Christmas,

Lyceum Theatre

From December 28: Bill Bailey’s Christmas Larks

*Please note that this is not a complete list. Please check with the theatre if you have booked tickets 

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‘This risks the survival of many venues and leaves thousands of professionals struggling over the Christmas period, particularly freelancers who cannot rely on Government support.’  

Others, including actor Georgia Frost, said: ‘I think it’s important that the industry looks beyond what’s happening to West End and engage with how this mess of government is allowing regional cities to lose their culture & arts.

‘If you really care about theatre being accessible then that also includes the rest of the UK.’

Hours after the announcement was made, London theatres began announcing that they would continue with their schedules performances as planned. 

The Royal Opera House tweeted: ‘The government has confirmed that London will be a Tier 2 area, and we are hugely looking forward to welcoming audiences back safely to the Royal Opera House for the Nutcracker and our special Christmas Concerts.’

Other shows due to go ahead include Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, which is due to reopen at the Apollo Theatre on December 12.

The London Palladium will host Pantoland with shows from 12 December, while the National Theatre is planning the pantomime Dick Whittington from 11 December. 

But while it was good news for theatres in London, those in the north have expressed their despair.  

The Palace Theatre & Opera House Manchester, which is due to host the pantomime Sleeping Beauty next month, said in a Facebook post: ‘Like everyone we watched and listened to the latest from the government during today’s tier announcement and are working on how this will affect our socially-distanced pantomime performances.

‘We will share any updates with everyone as soon as we have them. We love you and thank you for supporting us and all cultural institutions across our wonderful city.’

Other theatres facing cancellations due to the measures include Robin Hood at the Theatre Royal in Newcastle, which is to be placed into Tier 3. The show features former X-Factor winner Joe McElderry.  

The onerous tiered system will be in place across England from December 3 until the end of March, the Prime Minister said

The onerous tiered system will be in place across England from December 3 until the end of March, the Prime Minister said

The onerous tiered system will be in place across England from December 3 until the end of March, the Prime Minister said

North/South divide: Most of the toughest restrictions have been imposed on the north and Midlands while the majority of the south is in Tier 2. Only three remote areas of England are in Tier 1: Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight

North/South divide: Most of the toughest restrictions have been imposed on the north and Midlands while the majority of the south is in Tier 2. Only three remote areas of England are in Tier 1: Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight

North/South divide: Most of the toughest restrictions have been imposed on the north and Midlands while the majority of the south is in Tier 2. Only three remote areas of England are in Tier 1: Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight

‘London could still be placed into Tier 3,’ Matt Hancock has warned 

London has today been placed in Tier 2 of Boris Johnson’s controversial Covid-19 restrictions – but Matt Hancock has already warned the city is perilously close to moving up into Tier 3 before Christmas. 

The decision to save the capital from Tier 3 will be a relief to many in the hospitality industry who will be able to reopen with limitations when the current national lockdown ends on December 2. 

Coronavirus cases are falling quickly in more than two-thirds of London boroughs – and appear to be stalling in the rest – and critics have demanded the PM is now transparent about how the capital can get into Tier 1 as soon as possible. 

But Matt Hancock told the Commons this afternoon that it is more likely to move in the other direction and said: ‘There is a lot of work to do in London to keep it in Tier 2’. 

Mr Hancock has placed all of neighbouring Kent in Tier 3 and his warning about the capital’s Tier 2 status has raised suspicion that the Government will do the same to London when the tiers are reviewed in a fortnight. One critic tweeted: ‘Watch London go into Tier 3 before Christmas’. Another said Mr Hancock’s words showed ‘it won’t be long till London is pushed to Tier 3’.

The capital’s top restaurateurs and hoteliers had warned that placing the capital in Tier 3 would wipe out half the hospitality industry in the city and trigger an ‘atomic bomb’ of job losses after the New Year. 

Leading restaurateur Richard Caring, who owns chains including The Ivy and Bill’s, said he was ‘very glad’ that London was in Tier 2, but if it had gone into Tier 3 then ‘we might as well have turned out the lights’. He told MailOnline: ‘These so-called politicians are advised purely by scientists and not commercial reality. They are destroying people faster than this virus.’

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said it was a ‘right decision’ because ‘Londoners have done exactly what has been asked of them since the start of this pandemic’ – but slammed the Government for continuing with a curfew on pubs, clubs, bars and restaurants. 

But he added ‘I am extremely disappointed that the Government is sticking with specific measures that seem to cause more harm than good. I am pleased we persuaded the Government to get rid of the 10pm curfew but extending it to 11pm, when it should be scrapped altogether, is a mistake. It is a real blow to pubs, bars and restaurants which have endured such a difficult year and deserve better’. 

 

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The theatre today tweeted: ‘Following today’s announcements regarding Tier 3 restrictions, we are reviewing all options for Robin Hood. Customers will hear from us directly in the coming days, with refunds guaranteed should the show not be able to continue.’

In Sheffield, the city’s own Damian Williams was due to lead in Damian’s Pop-Up Panto! at the Crucible Theatre.  

Today, theatre chiefs said they ‘remain committed to doing everything we can to bring the magic of panto to Sheffield this year’.

They added: ‘It’s a relief to know that we are able to continue to rehearse shows under the current Tier 3 guidance.

‘Our rehearsals for Damian’s Pop Up Panto will begin on Sunday 6 December and we’ll be preparing to welcome audiences back to the buildings from Wednesday 16 December. 

‘We know that if we remain in Tier 3 we won’t be able to reopen to the public. We are remaining hopeful that we may move down to Tier 2, in which case we can reopen.

‘Should we remain in Tier 3 after the first review, we’ll adjust our plans and hope to share the pantomime online.’

They added: ‘If ever there was a year when we need the joy of pantomime, it’s this one and if ever there was a time for us to draw on all our reserves of hope, it’s now!’ 

Meanwhile Jon Morgan, director of the Theatres Trust, said today’s announcement will have a ‘devastating’ impact on theatres which will be in Tier 3 areas from December 2 and will therefore not be able to reopen.  

Mr Morgan said: ‘It is a terrible blow for the theatre sector that so many large towns and cities in England are now in Tier 3 where theatres are not permitted to reopen.

‘There are many theatres that we know were planning pantos and other shows for December and this news will be devastating for those organisations.

‘They will have invested in rehearsals and other preparations for reopening and will now find themselves unable to recoup those costs, facing further financial strain in what has already been a catastrophic year.’

Caroline Norbury, chief executive of the Creative Industries Federation, said the impact on cultural organisations based in Tier 3 zones will be “devastating”.

“Christmas is a key time for many parts of the creative industries, including venues, cinemas and museums, and it is enormously sad that many weeks spent rehearsing for pantomimes, theatre shows, concerts and events may now have gone to waste,” she said.

Ms Norbury added: “Without more support, we risk losing hundreds of viable creative businesses and practitioners in Tier 3, as well as those in higher restriction areas in the devolved nations.

“For the sake of our country’s vibrant creative scene, an urgent UK-wide review is needed to assess what these viable organisations and practitioners need to weather these extraordinary times,” she added.

It comes as Boris Johnson imposed brutal lockdowns on nearly 99 per cent of England today as he unveiled the new Tiers – with Tories raging at ‘authoritarianism’ and threatening to mutiny.

The infection profile of the UK in mid-September

The infection profile of the UK in mid-September

The infection profile of the UK in mid-November

The infection profile of the UK in mid-November

These charts show how the infection profile has changed across the UK between mid September (left) and mid-November

WHAT ARE THE NEW TIER RULES? 

Tier One will be the default and measures will not be allowed to get more relaxed in any part of England:

  • Rule of six and social distancing apply to gatherings indoors and outdoors;
  • Pubs and restaurants are allowed to open with table service only and an 11pm closing time.

Tier Two

  • People from separate households cannot meet indoors and the rule of six applies outside;
  • Pubs must close unless operating as restaurants, with alcoholic drinks served alongside meals;

Tier Three will be the toughest level of restrictions and rules have been tightened up to make them stricter than before. All of the Tier Two rules apply as well as the following:

  • Indoor entertainment venues such as cinemas, theatres and bowling alleys must close;
  • Pubs, restaurants and cafes must close except for takeaway;
  • Shops and hairdressers and salons will be allowed to remain open; 
  • Groups of six will be allowed to meet outdoors only; 
  • Crowds at live events will be banned;
  • People should avoid travelling out of, or into, Tier Three areas unless it is unavoidable.
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Although London and Liverpool were spared the harshest Tier 3 in small glimmers of light, just 700,000 people – one per cent of the population – will be subject to the loosest grade of restrictions.

Before November 5 there were 29million in the lowest Tier.

Meanwhile, around 55million residents will be in the toughest two levels after the blanket national lockdown ends on December 2, according to the breakdown released today.

Tier 3 will be brought in for huge swathes of the country including the bulk of the North, much of the Midlands, all of Kent, and Bristol – putting a wrecking ball through pubs, restaurants and clubs now forced to close except for takeaway.

Only Cornwall, Scilly and the Isle of Wight have been put into the loosest Tier 1, which allows socialising inside homes and pubs subject to the Rule of Six.

As a result most of England will be banned from mixing indoors with other households, apart from five days over Christmas. Pubs in Tier 2 will only be able to serve alcohol with ‘substantial’ meals.

But while London was placed in Tier 2 when restrictions end next month, experts have warned it could soon be plunged into Tier 3.

Matt Hancock has already warned the city is perilously close to moving up into Tier 3 before Christmas. 

The decision to save the capital from Tier 3 will be a relief to many in the hospitality industry who will be able to reopen with limitations when the current national lockdown ends on December 2. 

Coronavirus cases are falling quickly in more than two-thirds of London boroughs – and appear to be stalling in the rest – and critics have demanded the PM is now transparent about how the capital can get into Tier 1 as soon as possible. 

But Matt Hancock told the Commons this afternoon that it is more likely to move in the other direction and said: ‘There is a lot of work to do in London to keep it in Tier 2’. 

Mr Hancock has placed all of neighbouring Kent in Tier 3 and his warning about the capital’s Tier 2 status has raised suspicion that the Government will do the same to London when the tiers are reviewed in a fortnight. One critic tweeted: ‘Watch London go into Tier 3 before Christmas’. Another said Mr Hancock’s words showed ‘it won’t be long till London is pushed to Tier 3’.

The capital’s top restaurateurs and hoteliers had warned that placing the capital in Tier 3 would wipe out half the hospitality industry in the city and trigger an ‘atomic bomb’ of job losses after the New Year. 

Leading restaurateur Richard Caring, who owns chains including The Ivy and Bill’s, said he was ‘very glad’ that London was in Tier 2, but if it had gone into Tier 3 then ‘we might as well have turned out the lights’. He told MailOnline: ‘These so-called politicians are advised purely by scientists and not commercial reality. They are destroying people faster than this virus.’

What tier are you in? 

TIER THREE: VERY HIGH

North East

Tees Valley Combined Authority:

Hartlepool

Middlesbrough

Stockton-on-Tees

Redcar and Cleveland

Darlington

North East Combined Authority:

Sunderland

South Tyneside

Gateshead

Newcastle upon Tyne

North Tyneside

County Durham

Northumberland

North West

Greater Manchester

Lancashire

Blackpool

Blackburn with Darwen

Yorkshire and The Humber

The Humber

West Yorkshire

South Yorkshire

West Midlands

Birmingham and Black Country

Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent

Warwickshire, Coventry and Solihull

East Midlands

Derby and Derbyshire

Nottingham and Nottinghamshire

Leicester and Leicestershire

Lincolnshire

South East

Slough (remainder of Berkshire is tier 2: High alert)

Kent and Medway

South West

Bristol

South Gloucestershire

North Somerset

TIER 2: HIGH

North West

Cumbria

Liverpool City Region

Warrington and Cheshire

Yorkshire

York

North Yorkshire

West Midlands

Worcestershire

Herefordshire

Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin

East Midlands

Rutland

Northamptonshire

East of England

Suffolk

Hertfordshire

Cambridgeshire, including Peterborough

Norfolk

Essex, Thurrock and Southend on Sea

Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes

London

All 32 boroughs plus the City of London

South East

East Sussex

West Sussex

Brighton and Hove

Surrey

Reading

Wokingham

Bracknell Forest

Windsor and Maidenhead

West Berkshire

Hampshire (except the Isle of Wight), Portsmouth and Southampton

Buckinghamshire

Oxfordshire

South West

South Somerset, Somerset West and Taunton, Mendip and Sedgemoor

Bath and North East Somerset

Dorset

Bournemouth

Christchurch

Poole

Gloucestershire

Wiltshire and Swindon

Devon

TIER 1: MEDIUM 

South East

Isle of Wight

South West

Cornwall

Isles of Scilly

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