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Sir Michael Palin: Talent is wasted as theatres are closed

He said the West End is the envy of the world.

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Sir Michael Palin does want to see the talent in the West End go to waste (Ian West/PA)

Sir Michael Palin does want to see the talent in the West End go to waste (Ian West/PA)

Sir Michael Palin does want to see the talent in the West End go to waste (Ian West/PA)

Sir Michael Palin has said it is vital the talents of the UK arts industry are not squandered while theatres around the country are closed.

The Monty Python star said West End theatre is the envy of the world and the people who make that possible must not be allowed to disappear.

He told ITV’s This Morning: “Theatre is one of those things that unless we really get on top of coronavirus, unless there are sufficient precautions, for people to go in and take their places, for actors to move around the stage, touch each other, all that sort of thing you have to do. Unless we can ensure they can do this safely, there won’t be any theatres opening for a long time.

“You can’t have a quarter-open theatre with people sitting a metre or two metres apart.

“There is a real problem that there is a huge amount of talent out there that is not being used at the moment, I think that is particularly sad. Not just acting talent, it’s designers, it’s people who run theatres themselves, people who work in the theatre, build the sets, a lot of people are not being used well at the moment.

“There will be various stages at which theatres reopen and I think people just have to be ready.

“We mustn’t lose all the skills and all the talents that are working in theatre at the moment: music, writers, actors. We mustn’t let them just disappear because it’s a huge industry and one for which we are envied throughout the world, I think our West End theatre is probably the envy of the world.”

Sir Michael will be starring opposite Robert Lindsay and Joanna Lumley in a shortened performance of Waiting For Godot by Samuel Beckett on Zoom, to raise money for The Royal Theatrical Fund.

He said: “You can’t really do Godot justice without seeing the bottom half of the body so it’s a very strange way of doing it.

“We can’t really do it in full costume and we are not pretending we are on stage, I think people will see through that.

“The Beckett estate, who very generously allowed us to do this, said they prefer us to do it as we are at this stage, on Zoom in our own homes, as that’s the way we communicate nowadays, so I’m hoping my study will look like a blasted heath with one tree on it.”

Doctor Who star David Tennant has said Government help is needed for UK theatres until they can reopen in full.

He told the BBC’s Coronavirus Newscast podcast: “Theatre needs a room full of hundreds of people to work. So there isn’t an obvious way, currently, for it to come back.

“I heard that on the 4th July they will reopen, but not for performances, which doesn’t really seem to make any apparent sense. You need to have a full house. Theatres operate usually on relatively small profit margins, so they’re not going to work if you have to block off every fourth seat.”

He said “we’ll take what we can get” when asked about outdoor theatre performances or very small performances, adding: “Everyone understands, the safety of the audiences has to be paramount. No theatre wants to invite people in only for people to get sick.

“I think there has to be some sort of help and that has to be on a Government level to keep these theatres going until they are able to reopen properly.

“A halfway house will be great in very specific circumstances, but for theatres up and down the country… they need to reopen properly, and that’s not going to happen any time soon as far as I can tell.”

PA Media