The future of theatre looks “incredibly bleak” unless the Government steps in with investment, according to a designer helping to transform the UK’s venues as part of a national campaign.
The National Theatre on London’s South Bank was among the theatres being wrapped in bright pink barrier tape reading “Missing Live Theatre” as part of the Scene Change initiative.
Speaking outside the famous venue during the campaign’s launch, designer Tom Piper warned that many theatres were about to go through “massive redundancies”.
He told the PA news agency: “The campaign is a play on the fact that we saw loads of theatres closed up with hazard warning around them, as if they were some kind of toxic site, whereas theatres are actually places of community and joy where people come together and share.
“Even though the country is beginning to reopen, the future for theatre looks incredibly bleak for all those people that work in it, and all those freelance workers who work in theatres too.”
Mr Piper said some designers had lost “years of work” in the past few months.
Speaking about the pandemic’s impact, he said: “Designers across the country have seen their work cancelled or postponed.
“Nobody has any upcoming projects. We don’t know when the theatres are going to open. We haven’t been able to create anything. We have lost years of work, some of us.
“Across the country different designers are creating things – the Manchester Royal Exchange, down in Plymouth at the Theatre Royal – and these are all theatres that are about to go through massive redundancies.
“We wanted to highlight the huge risk to the theatre industry at this time.”
Mr Piper also called for a clear timeline to reopen the UK’s theatre sector.
“I think the Government are beginning to see our cause,” he said.
“We have a road map, but there are no dates in the road map of when things can start. What we really need is investment.”
Theatres have been devastated by the closures caused by the pandemic, and it has been warned that 70% of performing arts companies will close by Christmas if there is no government rescue package.
The Manchester Royal Exchange, Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh, Lyric Belfast, and the Sherman Theatre in Cardiff also took part in the campaign on Friday, while others throughout London’s West End will join in on Saturday.
The RSC, Sadler’s Wells, Theatr Clwyd, Theatre Royal Stratford East, Sheffield Theatres, Ambassador Theatre Group, Theatre Royal Plymouth will take part the following week.
Scene Change said: “As businesses begin to reopen, the doors of theatres remain firmly shut whilst we navigate a way back to live performance.
“Today, as we launch #MissingLiveTheatre, we want to bring joy and colour to theatres across the UK and Ireland, whilst highlighting the ongoing impact of Covid-19 and what we as an industry and local communities are missing.
“This is a moment of reset in our industry and we believe the design community can be an essential part of the transformation that will see theatre buildings being reopened and the ways in which theatre can be re-imagined.
“As shapers of theatrical space through the use of people and place, our work is pivotal in connecting an entire ecosystem within the theatre industry. We are ideally positioned to be at the heart of any discussions about how theatre operates in the future.”
The tape will remain in place for up to a week before being removed and reused by Scene Change to envelop another theatre.