ShentonSTAGE Daily for FRIDAY DECEMBER 17

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Welcome to today’s  edition of ShentonSTAGE Daily (Please feel free to forward this e-mail to friends, and invite them to be added to this list!)

SOCIAL DISTANCING TO RETURN IN WALES

Wales announced yesterday that it will introduce new social distancing restrictions and close nightclubs from December 27 in a bid to slow the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant. Can England be far behind?

Theatres were keen to argue last time around that it was untenable for them to operate at reduced capacities with social distancing in place, but theatre owners and managements were also incredibly reluctant to introduce compulsory masking or checking of COVID test or vaccination status, either. Perhaps now they will be forced to take action and implement measures to protect their own futures?

CANCELLATIONS MULTIPLY
As it is, the current climate of uncertainty — with performances being summarily cancelled across the West End and the rest of the country — is already having a massively detrimental effect on audience confidence.

Reporting on widespread cancellations at music venues across Britain, The Guardian also noted; “It is a similar story for the UK’s theatre industry at a crucial time of year. It is the money generated from the annual pantomime that allows regional theatres to take more risks with other productions during the year. One big Omicron panto casualty is Aladdin at the Brighton Centre which was due to star Anita Dobson. It has been postponed for a year. The entertainment union Bectu said there had been a wave of theatre cancellations and it would again be freelance workers – many of whom were excluded from support earlier in the pandemic – who suffered most. Philippa Childs, head of Bectu, said: ‘This started as a public health crisis but it could quickly become a jobs crisis as well’.”


CRITICS’ SCHEDULES ARE THROWN IN THE AIR, TOO

Of course there are more important things to worry about, in the current crisis, than now it affects theatre critics, but that narcissistic concern was addressed in a column by The Guardian’s Arifa Akbar yesterday.

As she wrote,

“Until a few days ago, I had a diary rammed with first nights. This week was non-stop theatre every night: a sprint finish to the festive down-tooling.

Wednesday evening was supposed to be the press night for Hex, Rufus Norris’s musical retelling of Sleeping Beauty at the National Theatre. And then it wasn’t, due to Covid. Other official opening nights fell in what seemed like a horrible game of skittles, from Moulin Rouge to Force Majeure – some of the most hyped shows of the year. Suddenly, my sprint became a crawl.

Then a glimmer of hope on Wednesday afternoon with a phone call from the Almeida theatre. Did I want to come to see their musical revival of Spring Awakening – based on Frank Wedekind’s 1891 play – two nights before press night? You know, just in case …?

Everyone in the production had tested negative that day, explained the press officer, and it hit me then how the industry was once again forced to live by the day and the moment.”

TODAY’S THEATRE BIRTHDAYS (DEC 17):
Theatre birthdays (DEC 17): Bernard Hill, 77; Eugene Levy, 75; Sarah Paulson, 47; Bill Pullman, 68 (pictured: in THE GOAT OR WHO IS SYLVIA?, in 2002); Sir Tommy Steele, 85 (pic in SCROOGE at the London Palladium, 2012)

SEE YOU ON MONDAY
See you in your inbox on Monday. But if you can’t wait that long, you can find me on Twitter @ShentonStage (though not as often on weekends)

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