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BROADWAY, HERE I COME! THE US BORDERS RE-OPEN TODAY AS BRITAIN FACES RISING COVID CASES, HOSPITALISATIONS AND DEATHS
The publication schedule for this newsletter for the next fortnight may be a little different, as from tomorrow to November 22 I will be in New York, returning overnight that night to land back in the UK on November 23. (So the newsletter may also well have a more Broadway-tinge than usual).
This follows today’s reopening of the US borders to Europeans and British travellers (time was we’d be able to be embraced in the first word and not have to set ourselves apart on our little island); and this will be my first trip there in just over 2 years (I last visited in October 2019; my planned trip for March was, of course, aborted when Broadway shut down, and then, in turn, the West End) later that month.
So it has been a long time coming. I’m looking forward to being back, of course — I have 19 shows (10 of them on Broadway) booked for across the 13 nights I’m there! But I’m also looking forward to the fact that I’ll feel a whole lot safer on (and off) Broadway than I do in the West End.
All performers and theatre staff there are REQUIRED to be vaccinated — unlike in the UK where Equity UK has not mandated this at all (though regular testing of the actors is required). And audiences are REQUIRED to be vaccinated AND masked, while attending the theatre.
By contrast, at last week’s opening of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (SORT OF) at the Criterion, where mask wearing was as usual more honoured in the breach than the observance, I noticed that most of the front row were entirely unmasked, less than a metre from the actors in front of them. Both parties were potentially therefore a risk to each other. Which seems total insanity.
Especially as we are watching escalating infection, hospitalization and death rates being reported daily. It is so dispiriting to see this brand of libertarianism taking hold over here, a free-for-all in which protecting public health (your own and that of others) is a personal responsibility and a personal choice. It feels like living in a Trump supporting GOP state.
And SOLT and UK Theatre have done NOTHING beyond spouting meaningless recommendations to protect public safety, let alone enforce them. I’ve said it regularly, and I’ll say it again: this is a major failure of leadership. This may not be directly the personal fault of CEO Julian Bird, who may be tied by the conflicting desires of the producers and theatre owners to keep their venues open at all costs (as Boris Johnson would — and has — said, let the bodies pile up; though I’m not sure that dead customers buy many theatre tickets). But should another lockdown prove necessary as we head into the winter months, I hope that commercial theatre landlords and producers don’t expect any sympathy.
Bird trumpeted that ‘Freedom Day’ as it was dubbed, when all the then place COVID restrictions against public gatherings were lifted and theatres were able to re-open without social distancing in place, as a “lifeline for the industry.” The casual disregard for the consequences of not implementing ongoing precautions has enabled COVID to take hold once again.
As Washington Post theatre critic Peter Marks tweeted after spending a fortnight in London, and going for a COVID test on his return home last weekend:
And as one of his British-born readers replied,
And once back on his home streets, Marks also tweets:
THAT WAS THE WEEK THAT WAS….
My weekly round-up of my columns and tweets of the week, plus those of others, including headlines from London and beyond to the regions and Broadway, plus COVID news of the week and other controversies.
To read in full, click here: http://shentonstage.com/that-was-the-week-that-was-november-1-7/
Featured this week: a hilarious tweet on trying to find the toilets at the Barbican Centre!
TODAY’S THEATRE BIRTHDAYS