On Tuesday 21 July, tape reading “missing live theatre” was draped across the entrance of Norwich Theatre Royal. The appearance of the tape highlights the devastating effect of the coronavirus pandemic upon the performing arts, particularly live theatre performances.
Theatres across the UK are currently shut as they are unable to run performances over safety concerns. Norwich Theatre Royal is no exception: last month, the theatre told their 217 staff members that they would have to restructure due to “huge financial losses”. Staff with zero-hour contracts were told they would not receive any more work and the remaining staff were told their roles were at risk of being made redundant.
The use of the tape with the message reading “missing live theatre” emphasises the effect of the pandemic upon the industry. The tape itself likens the closure of theatres to a crime, highlighting how those working in the performing arts view the underfunding of the industry as a crime. The tape is part of the national SceneChange campaign, which has been started by theatre designers.
The chairman of the trustees of Norwich Theatre, Michael Newey, has spoken about the effect coronavirus has had on Norwich Theatre Royal, saying lockdown “saw us immediately lose 95% of our income and this scale of ongoing financial loss is no longer sustainable”. He has further commented, “With no large-scale productions able to go ahead until next year, no clear date for when we will be able to operate at full scale again and no public funding intervention forthcoming, we have been forced to begin a major restructuring project to reduce our costs.”
Clive Lewis, Norwich South MP was among a handful of parliamentarians asking the government to offer more concrete support to venues. In a joint letter to Caroline Dinenage MP, minister in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, he wrote, “Our venues are in jeopardy now because the government won’t acknowledge their value and importance to our regional cities”.
The tape which has appeared on Norwich Theatre Royal demonstrates the severity of lockdown’s impact upon theatres and highlights how the tape is a cry for greater financial support, to help keep the industry afloat as lockdown ensues.