During a bout of insomnia in the early hours of yesterday morning, I drowsily stumbled upon an article written by Sky News journalist, Chris Robertson. The Phantom of the Opera is to close, permanently, in the West End. They’re pulling the plug on Phantom? I was immediately wide awake. Over my dead body!
We have to save our great British theatre! COVID-19 has done enough damage already; it cannot be allowed to destroy our cultural heritage. For phantom’s sake, whatever happens, our world-class theatre cannot be allowed to pale into insignificance.
I’m quirky like that. Some people marvel at parks and gardens; I go into raptures when I see a theatre.
I love the whole theatre experience, and I know I am not alone.
The buzzy anticipation before a performance, the smell of the greasepaint as the curtain goes up, and the thrill of being a part of a visually mind-blowing experience.
I have been in love with the theatre forever. I have my father to thank for that. He adored the musical theatre, and my West End initiation came when some might have said I was too young to appreciate it when he took me to see Hello Dolly and Charlie Girl in the same year. After that, there was no going back, I’ve been hopelessly devoted ever since.
I wanted to pursue a career in the theatre but, aged sixteen I was put off by an acting tutor moonlighting from R.A.D.A. ‘Darling, an acting career is not for you,’ was what he said. He modelled himself on Sir Noël Coward, so, maybe, he was the one with the problem, not me, but that’s another story.
I have kept programmes over the years and now have a ridiculous stash. Sadly I don’t have them for some of the great productions I saw as a child, which included My Fair Lady and The King and I but the visual memories I have from those performances are still fresh in my mind.
‘The U.K. could become ‘cultural wasteland’, was Chris Robertson’s gloomy prediction.
After thirty-four years on the West End, Phantom of the Opera being pulled from Her Majesty’s Theatre in the West End is terrible news for the beleaguered theatre industry.
The West End is the vibrant, beating heart of London, it cannot be allowed to die, and Phantom of the Opera packing up its props and its backdrops for good cannot be allowed to happen!
Willie Russell’s words from Blood Brothers, the musical I would have given my eye teeth and right arm to have written, tell me it’s not true, say I only dreamed it, whirled around my head.
COVID-19 has made 2020 the year from Hell, and now it’s threatening to bring down the curtain on our culture.
At the beginning of July 2020, the Government promised £1.57bn of help to the COVID-19 damaged theatre industry. They described the package as the most significant one-off investment in U.K. culture, but will it be enough to save thousands of jobs? Between 2017 and 2018, the National Theatre alone employed 4,000 people. From actors to ushers to scenic artists. All those wonderful people who put their hearts and souls into creating performances we will never forget.
As of 11th July 2020, performing arts were given the green light take place outdoors, with a socially distanced audience. So outdoor venues such as Glyndebourne, Sussex have started their garden performances. They bill themselves as no ordinary opera. Well, it’s not your average venue either.
My father took me to the theatre there when I was eight, which arguably was too young, but it was an experience will never forget. Glyndebourne is famous for its sumptuous gardens where opera lovers have picnicked before performances. Its magnificent theatre is still closed, and if you rush off now to book a garden performance on-line, they are sold-out bar one.
Cornwall’s Minack Theatre has also had the go-ahead. I’ve not been, but it’s on my bucket list, which I’ve just moved to the top of my recently re-christened Post-COVID-19 Bucket List.
If you go on Ticketmaster.com these days, the repeated word, CANCELLED, is dismal reading.
Our illustrious PM has given the go-ahead for theatres to re-open on the 1st August 2020. However, producer Cameron Mackintosh, who has worked on shows such as Les Miserables and Hamilton, has said he doesn’t believe it will be possible to get shows back up and running in 2020. I know whose judgement is more sound.
Whatever the outcome, I feel incredibly fortunate to have seen Phantom of the Opera in the West End, along with a whole host of other world-class shows. Long may they reign.
I will leave you with Andrew Lloyd Webber and the wonderful Phantom London Orchestra’s virtual performance of All I Ask of You, which I listened to hundreds of times during Lockdown and I still go back to it, every now and then.
I will never allow myself to think I have made my last visit to the West End, the iconic beating heart of British theatre. Our theatres, somehow, have to survive the Covid-19 storm, it is a legacy that must be preserved for future generations to enjoy. The show(s) must go on!