Welcome to today’s edition of ShentonSTAGE Daily that is e-mailed to subscribers every morning (to subscribe, send message to ShentonStageMailingList@gmail.com), and is also available online here.
PLAN B ARRIVES (AT LAST)
It may have been finally implemented as a “dead cat” distraction from Boris Johnson’s bigger personal problems of chronic lies and dishonesty that are engulfing him right now around illegal Chrtistmas parties held at Downing Street last Christmas, but actually plan B measures like compulsory mask wearing in indoor settings — INCLUDING theatres and cinemas — are already in force in Wales and Scotland. And I’ve been calling for them for months here and on Twitter; they come with no cost implications at all.
But SOLT and UK Theatre have refused to mandate them, relying on their members to come up with their own rules, theatre by theatre. With the sudden arrival of Omicron, many theatres have indeed been making mask wearing compulsory; at Leicester’s Curve on Tuesday night, for example, ushers were patrolling the aisles with signs telling us this, and compliance was virtually 100%. Yet at other venues, it’s left to the audience to decide what to do: as a follower on Twitter described their experience this week at the London Palladium:
Now, of course, it won’t be a choice but an obligation for audiences to wear masks.
And while Plan B requires unseated venues with capacities of over 500 to check COVID passports, this will still not be a requirement in theatres in England, though again some theatres are unilaterally insisting on them, and/or proof of a current negative test. (At CABARET, which has a press night at the Playhouse tomorrow, we’ve been reminded that both are required).
When I wrote to Julian Bird, CEO of both SOLT and UKT back in September to suggest that theatres implement COVID passports, he replied, “We await the latest from government in regards to Covid certification, and indeed are trialling their use in a number of venues while those discussions continue. The need to ensure equality of opportunity and fairness for all is one challenge, among many, in the implementation. I am aware of your strong feelings on this issue – others have strong opinions too.”
We all want to have an equal opportunity to stay alive. And theatres are now finally embracing that fact for their audiences, regardless of what SOLT and UKT do or don’t say.
EVERY DAY A LITTLE DEATH…..
Meanwhile, theatres — and theatregoers — are faced with chronic uncertainty. Of course, this couldn’t come at a worse time for the industry — Christmas is usually a time when the box office is at its healthiest — but up and down the land performances are being lost as cast members test COVID positive.
Last night’s performance of OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE at the Duke of York’s was cancelled:
Yesterday, too, Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre suspended all performances of its pantomime BEAUTY AND THE BEAST until at least December 18:
No wonder the front page of yesterday’s iPaper was headlined:
And that was even before Boris Johnson’s announcement of the introduction of plan B…..
TODAY’S THEATRE BIRTHDAYS (DEC 9):
Susan Bullock, 63; Judi Dench, 87; Imogen Heap, 44 (scored HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD), 44; Felicity Huffman, 59; John Malkovich, 68 (pic: in BITTER WHEAT at Garrick Theatre, 2019); DONNY OSMOND, 64 (pic: poster for PANTOLAND at the London Palladium this year)
SEE YOU TOMORROW
See you in your inbox or here online tomorrow. But if you can’t wait that long, you can find me on Twitter @ShentonStage (though not as often on weekends)