Theatre job losses soar from 3,000 to 5,000 in a month, says union

Tap above to watch video report by Faye Barker

At least 5,000 jobs have been lost in the UK theatre industry because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Of these, 2,000 are just in the last month alone, and since the government announced a £1.57 billion rescue package for the arts, 2,700 of these job losses are in London and the West End.The figures - collated by the union Bectu - also warn that, on top of this, there are tens of thousands of more freelance theatre workers with little or no work.

It’s estimated that of the 290,000 people who work in theatre, 70% are freelance.

The government says live indoor performances can't begin again in England until 15th August at the earliest.

However, while social distancing measures are in place, many theatres say it isn't economically viable to re-open. The impact on those who work in the industry, is tough.

Kirsty Hoiles and her husband were both performing in the West End when all theatres had to close on March 16.

They have found themselves struggling to support their young family with little idea as to when they can return to the stage.

Kirsty, who plays Tanya in Mamma Mia in the West End said: “It's difficult - I'd love to think we will all be back. Until we have a date as to when theatres can reopen safely, we won’t know when we can have our jobs back.“It's a similar story across the world of theatre with the next act full of questions and uncertainty.

The producer Cameron Mackintosh, whose productions include hits Hamilton, Les Miserables and Mary Poppins, says the requirement for social distancing in theatres is an act of "artistic and commercial bankruptcy".

Credit: YouTube/Phantom of the Opera

It is the freelance workers who seem to be hit the hardest and who have the least support.

Sophie Russell had not long finished playing the title role in Richard III at the world renowned Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and was about to begin rehearsals for Twelfth Night with the same company, when the industry was shut down.

She said: “They did what they could, but while the theatre has no income, they have no money for the freelancers... And there are a hell of a lot of us with no work”

Her partner, Dennis Herdman, who is also an actor said:  “The only certainty in theatre right now, is we have to bide our time, like everyone.”

Empty theatre in London's West End - closed during the Covid pandemic

The head of Bectu, Philippa Heard, said more detail is needed on how and when the government’s £1.57 billion rescue package will be distributed.

She said: “We need to know sooner where this money is going and a date from the Government that we can work to, so we can get people back to work and theatres open again.”

With the brakes now squeezed on the next phase of lockdown easing, the wait will go on. And the longer theatres remain dark, the fears will only grow over the prospect of yet more job losses.