The theatres of London’s West End forced to reinvent itself

Les théâtres du West End de Londres contraints de se réinventer

Les théâtres du West End de Londres contraints de se réinventer

The area of the West End, in London, is reduced to silence since the pandemic of coronavirus, which pushes the theatres to reinvent itself to survive.

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June 20, 2020 20h55

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The theatres of London’s West End forced to reinvent itself

Pauline Froissart

Agence France-Presse

LONDON — people come from around the world attend musicals. The area of the West End, in London, is reduced to silence since the pandemic of coronavirus, which pushes the theatres to reinvent itself to survive.

Fifteen million tickets are sold each year to one of the theatres of that district in the centre of the uk capital, popular with tourists who come to see the Phantom of The opera, Les Miserables or The Mousetrap Agatha Christie play performed since 1952.

Closed for the month of march because of the pandemic, the theatres are wondering about their future if old measures of distance-physical (two meters between each person currently in England) and the flow restrictions.

Louis Hartshorn and Brian Hook, the co-founders of Hartshorn-Hook productions, are among the first to have announced the resumption to October, The Great Gatsby, a show immersive, revised and corrected to suit the health environment.

“The show is going to be réimaginé as a masked ball”, explained to theAFP Brian Hook. The spectators are invited to wear masks, that they can integrate into their disguise, and gloves, if they wish.

The public also will be reduced to 90 spectators, compared to 240 before, and the timetables changed to allow for cleaning of the premises.

Good news: the tickets are selling and people want to come back,” noted Brian Hook. Louis Hartshorn acknowledges, however: “It must work extremely well to reach the threshold of profitability because the figures are against us”.

The great difficulty in the immediate future is the absence of tourists. Hotels, restaurants, and museums remain closed, at least until the beginning of July. And the establishment on 8 June to a quarantine of fourteen days for travelers arriving in the United Kingdom has rejected any prospect of recovery.

“About a third of the audience of the london theatres are international tourists (…) and for the moment, there is little hope to see them back,” said Julian Bird, the boss of the association of UK theatre, in front of a parliamentary committee.

In total, 70% of british theatres could face bankruptcy by the end of the year, according to him.

Immersive experiences

The current crisis represents a hole of three billion pounds (3.3 billion euros) in revenues rooms this year, a drop of over 60%, according to a study conducted by firm Oxford Economics for the Creative Industries Federation.

This estimate does not take into account the possible reluctance of the public to return to when it will be allowed, warns the federation that feared 200 000 job losses without the intervention of the public authorities.

To survive, some re-open already in another form.

The theatre of the Old Vic, the actors, Claire Foy and Matt Smith, stars of the series and The Crown, will play without an audience and keeping their distances in the room the Lungs. Each performance will be filmed and broadcast live to a thousand of people who bought their tickets at the price they would pay normally, between 10 and 65 pounds, though this time, all for the benefit of all of the same view.

The bet is dared while many other theatres, such as the National Theatre, have put online free of charge on their internet website pieces filmed before the pandemic.

To Brian Hook, the context will promote the shows involving the audience. “There was already a boom for the theatre immersive prior to this crisis (…) I think it will be very positive for it.”

The company One Night Records will launch a project of this type at the beginning of October, in a secret location, Lockdown Town (City confined), a walk to the discovery of musical genres from the 1920s to the 1950s.

“Because the place is very large and because it is an immersive experience, we are able to do”, explained toAFP the general director of One Night Records, Tim Wilson. He had to adapt, by selling tickets in groups of four and converting the wandering free in a linear path.

The measures of distancing physics are a real headache. With two meters between each member of the audience, the Royal Shakespeare Company could not accommodate 20% of its normal public. “Not financially viable”, explains to theAFP Catherine Mallyon, executive director of the company, based in Stratford-upon-Avon, the hometown of the famous bard.

As to the mise en scene, ” she warns, “Romeo and Juliet at two meters distance, it is difficult to imagine”.

Le Soleil

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