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Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella could go on despite lockdown extension, PM hints

·3-min read

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s latest production could be exempt from the delay in lockdown easing, Boris Johnson hinted in his Downing Street briefing announcing the four-week postponement of the relaxation of all rules.

Last week, Lord Lloyd-Webber said he was determined to open his theatres on 21 June regardless of whether rules are relaxed, and was prepared to be arrested if authorities try to intervene.

In his briefing on Monday, the prime minister responded to statements from the composer, who has also previously warned he would consider legal action if venues were not allowed to reopen at full capacity.

Johnson said he had “colossal” admiration for Lloyd Webber, whose production of Cinderella is due to open for previews later this month, before a world premiere in July. He told the briefing: “I think we’re in talks with him to try to make it work and we’ll do whatever we can to be helpful.”

The prime minister added there were some pilot events that he hoped would go ahead even in the next four weeks.

Responding, Lloyd Webber said he was “pleased and surprised” by the comments, but suggested the possibility of a pilot scheme came as news to him.

In a statement, he said: “My goal is, and will always be, to fight for the full and safe reopening of theatre and live music venues up and down the country.

“I was pleased and surprised to hear the prime minister mention Cinderella as part of his announcement today, but I can’t comment further on the proposed pilot until I know more about the scheme.”

UK Corona cases

The government also aims to host between 10 and 15 further live event pilots in the four weeks leading up to the new date for easing all restrictions of 19 July, including cultural events and Euro 2020 games at Wembley.

Other leading figures from the stricken live entertainment industry condemned the delay to the end of lockdown and warned the beleaguered sector could not take much more strain.

In a statement, Sir Howard Panter and Dame Rosemary Squire of Trafalgar Entertainment said: “This delay is yet another bungle from a government that wouldn’t be given a single star in a review of its performance. The confusion and muddled messages are reminiscent of a West End farce.”

They argue the government’s own data shows a trip to the theatre is less dangerous than going to the pub, restaurant or supermarket and stressed the sector’s importance to public life.

Panter and Squire, who have two West End productions due to start next month, added: “With the data supporting a return to live events at full capacity – and with risks now diminishing – we urge the government to act before it’s too late.”

Panter, whose shows Anything Goes and Jersey Boys face costly delays, said that, while uncertainty remained over whether there would be a third wave of Covid-19, he was clear about the “significant damage to the theatre industry and all related industries”.

Equity, the actors’ union, said while public health must be the top priority, the government “can’t just expect a limitless reserve of resilience from our industry”.

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