Can London's famous Theatreland survive the coronavirus crisis?

London's West End theatres could be "decimated" by the coronavirus crisis and may take generations to recover, an industry expert has warned.

Theatreland pumps around £4 billion each year into London's economy but with venues empty three quarters are expected to go bust.

Producers of four hit musicals including Hamilton have already confirmed their shows won't be back before next year.

Actors, directors, cast and crew have joined demands for financial support from the government to save the industry from ruin. They say the West End is an essential part of London life.

"You go into London and you see these bright, big signs. You see the flashing light bulbs. It's such an image you relate to London," said 'Dear Evan Hansen' actor Sam Tutty.

"You see laughter, you see tears, it's escapism for so many people to come to the theatre. It unites people," added 'Tina The Musical' actor Aisha Jawando.

Box Office sign at the Palace Theatre in Soho Credit: PA

Sadlers Wells has stood on the same spot in Clerkenwell for 300 years but its bosses are also fearing for the future.

"If we don't get any support from the government we'll be closed by Christmas. There's no doubt about it. We haven't made any redundancies yet but we may have to look at that fairly soon," said Artistic Director Alistair Spalding.

Famous names including Phoebe Waller-Bridge, James McAvoy and Toby Jones have thrown their support behind a letter warning that the UK theatre industry stands “on the brink of ruin”.

Empty Shaftesbury Avenue in central London Credit: PA

The letter was also signed by Wendell Pierce who recently starred in Death of a Salesman. Its director said to make money they have to sell every seat.

"Even if we have to open the doors with social distancing at two metres, or at one metre, it's not financially viable. We won't break even,' said Marianne Elliott.

She said that hundreds of highly skilled people risked being made jobless.

"This means our theatre industry will be completely decimated and it will take generations before we can get it back to where we were," Marianne added.

More than 15 million tickets were sold to London theatre shows last year, that's more than all the people going to league football matches in the UK.

Shaftesbury Avenue sign in central London

"Every pound that is spent in a London theatre on a ticket, around £6 is spent in the local economy on eating out, shopping and hotels," said Julian Bird from the Society of London Theatre.

The government says it's doing all it can to support the industry by providing loans and business rates relief as well as a job retention scheme.

But with no guarantee that support will continue many fear the show cannot go on.