The U.K.’s leading theaters have closed their doors following government advice issued today for people to avoid public venues.
Theater organizations Society of London Theatre (SOLT) and U.K. Theatre said that their member venues will close tonight to help slow the spread of coronavirus.
Their members include most of the top theaters, from the National Theatre to Shakespeare’s Globe, the London Palladium, the Old Vic and the Royal Opera House.
The theaters will remain closed until further notice and will re-open following government recommendations.
Audience members for a show that has been canceled will be contacted by their ticket providers and are entitled to a refund.
Julian Bird, chief executive of SOLT and UK Theatre, said: “We are extremely grateful to all of our audiences who have continued to support us for as long as they can, and to theater staff across the country who have worked so hard in recent weeks to ensure the safety and enjoyment of audiences.
“Closing venues is not a decision that is taken lightly, and we know that this will have a severe impact on many of the 290,000 individuals working in our industry. In these uncertain times, SOLT and U.K. Theatre remain committed to helping provide vital support for those in need, and hope we are able to welcome audiences back to our theaters before too long.”
The Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) said that shows in all its venues are temporarily suspended with immediate effect. ATG theaters span West End venues including Ambassador’s, the Lyceum, the Duke of York and the Playhouse, as well as Glasgow’s Theatre Royal, the Swansea Arena, the Alexandra in Birmingham and the Edinburgh Playhouse.
“We understand that this decision comes as a disappointment, and a massive inconvenience for those of you already on the way to a venue this evening, but ultimately we all want the same thing: the health and safety of our communities, and we believe this is the correct decision to make,” Mark Cornell, group CEO at ATG said in a statement.
“Given the current ambiguity and lack of clarity as to how long our theatres may be closed for, we hope to provide you with an update within the next 48 hours regarding the exchange of tickets.”
The Royal Opera House also confirmed it would close its Covent Garden-based building to the public and cancel all performances with immediate effect and “with a heavy heart.”
Alex Beard, chief executive of the Royal Opera House said: “The staff and artists of the ROH are vital to the lifeblood of our art forms, without them we would simply not exist. This suspension of performances will impact not only our loyal audience but also our committed and talented workforce. We will work within the government guidelines to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our staff and artists during this difficult time.”
Many theaters that have been forced to cancel performances are charitable enterprises, and SOLT and U.K. Theatre say that, while ticketholders are all entitled to a refund for canceled performances, those who can afford to do so are being encouraged to donate the cost of their ticket to show support for the theater industry.
This afternoon U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson used a press conference to announce that it is time for everyone in the country to stop non-essential contact with others and to stop all unnecessary travel around the U.K.
Johnson also said people should start working from home where they possibly can, in addition to avoiding theaters and other social venues, such as clubs and pubs.
Until now, West End theaters in London have been offering free exchanges to customers who are unable to attend current performances due to feeling ill or travel restrictions, or if they are self-isolating.
London’s West End theater operators, including Delfont Mackintosh and Ambassador Theater Group, which run most of the major theaters, kept their venues running over the weekend, despite a number of no-shows and cancellations. They instead took added precautions, such as deep cleans ahead of shows and limited contact with cast at stage doors.
North London’s Arcola Theater also informed patrons Sunday evening that it has suspended all public performances until further notice. Battersea theater The Turbine has also canceled performances from March 16 until April 18.