I don’t typically post news on this blog, nor have I outwardly posted about theatre closures and show cancellations instead choosing to continue to post reviews and keep their word-of-mouth going or taking a small break to take extra marketing courses and improve my future content. I have also been enjoying the theatrical content consistently released during this lockdown including all of the Andrew Lloyd Webber shows, and beyond, from The Show Must Go On, various Leave a Light On concerts from the Theatre Café and Frankenstein, This House, and The Madness of King George III from National Theatre at Home. I’ve even been granted the chance to relive two favourites as A Monster Calls was streamed by Bristol Old Vic just last week and my favourite show The Grinning Man is still to come. As I’ve mentioned, the reason I haven’t been keeping up to date with these releases review wise is that I’m currently taking advantage of a break to think about and improve, the content on this website (in my head) ready for when theatre returns with a bang!
Then I received this e-mail, and everything got very, very real. The Wales Millennium Centre is my local theatre for big-budget national tours. I also love the New Theatre in Cardiff, which also hosts just as many national tours and holds another place in my heart, and I know they are also hit by this pandemic just as hard. However, the Wales Millennium Centre was the first place that allowed me to see Wicked for the first time back in 2014, Les Misérables multiple times last Christmas and, originally, Phantom of the Opera this Christmas. The Donald Gordon theatre itself is one of the most beautiful venues I have seen and making it onto their reviewer list, to be approached and invited to review their shows, was honestly a complete dream come true for me. However, today they have announced they are remaining closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic until January 2021 and cancelling or postponing productions including The Lion King, Welsh National Opera’s autumn season, The Book of Mormon, and The Phantom of the Opera which specifically saw its whole tour cancelled last month. Through its smaller events spaces, including the 250-seat Weston Studio and 160-capacity Ffresh Cabaret venue, and contribution to local festivals the Wales Millennium Centre is also vital to smaller Welsh businesses, aspiring actors, creators and production staff and up to 1,200 jobs are supported on the Wales Millennium Centre site.
Wales Millennium Centre shut its doors on March 17th, 2020 when social distancing advice around mass gatherings was announced by the UK government during a speech I’m sure we can all recall as if it was yesterday. In the light of this extended closure, the Wales Millennium Centre has announced that up to 250 roles could be affected and 85 permeant staff are at risk of redundancy. The closure will also affect the Centre’s 300 volunteers’ roles and will impact freelance and local artists.
“It is with deep regret that we have made the difficult decision to close Wales Millennium Centre until January 2021. The Coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating effect on theatres across the UK and, like many others, we have concluded that we won’t be able to put performances on our stages again while social distancing measures are in place. Under these circumstances, we can’t open the theatre in a way that provides a good audience experience and that is economically viable for the Centre and the producers who present their work here.Matthew Milsom, Wales Millennium Centre Managing Director
“The safety of our audience, staff and performers is of paramount importance and, therefore, we may have to consider extending the period of closure as government advice on mass gatherings becomes clearer over the coming weeks and months. We are also expecting significant disruption to the availability of touring shows for years to come, as productions are being cancelled and no new shows are being created.
“We are making these decisions now to secure the future of the Centre – home for the arts in Wales – which over 1.6m people visit each year and which contributes £70m to the Welsh economy. We have lost 85% of our income overnight and are seeking funding for both the short and longer-term. Whilst we are closed, we will do everything we can to keep our artistic and charitable work going, and to ensure that we are ready to reopen as soon as is practically possible”
I don’t want this post to come across as doom and gloom, but an illustration of the necessity of this theatre, and the industry as a whole, to the people behind the monetary figures; the staff, visitors, performers, crews, everyone who loves theatre. If you can please sign any petitions you can, and donate where possible even if a show is free online consider donating, say, £5 a fraction of a standard ticket. You can also buy a range of merchandise from Theatre Support Fund who are the brains behind those amazing The Show Much Go On t-shirts, but they also offer mugs, notebooks and more. Many shows like Wicked have online merch shops and Today Tix has transitioned to Tomorrow Tix.
However, if you have ever visited the Wales Millennium Centre I implore you to consider donating to support their return following the Coronavirus pandemic by visiting their Donate Now page. Please also show them some love on their social media pages (@TheCentre). The Centre is not the only theatre in this situation, as another well-known national tour venue Birmingham Hippodrome has entered redundancy talks placing 62 jobs at risk, so please consider donating to your local theatre if you can.
I have been donating to watch shows where possible, however, as I am currently searching for work, I’m unable to do as much as I wish I could. This blog isn’t monetised in any way so I’m unable to dedicate revenue, however, as I’m lucky to have some savings I will be donating at least one month of wages, in the full amount, and will do more when able. In the meantime, I am planning a week of content specifically focused around the Wales Millennium Centre (22nd June – 28th June) and this will be followed by retrospective reviews and round-ups of the theatre I’ve enjoyed during this lockdown period.
For updates regarding London’s West End and the wider theatre community please visit the Society of London Theatre website. If you know of any petitions or direct places to donate please leave them in the comments or respond to this blog on social media. I will do my best to add them below.