Hamilton, Come From Away among shows to close during Sydney’s snap Covid lockdown

There’s confusion about whether audiences need to stay at home after seeing a show, with one theatre producer describing the situation as ‘chaos’

After months of no restrictions on audience capacity, Sydney’s arts and entertainment industry has again received a harsh lesson in the realities of pandemic-era production.

The lockdown of the City of Sydney, Randwick, Woollahra and Waverley local government areas, which requires residents to stay home unless engaged in essential activities or outdoor exercise, has halted the vast majority of Sydney’s live shows.

Anyone who has worked in the four council areas in the past 14 days must also stay at home. This includes all casts, crews and box office workers.

On Friday, there was confusion about whether audience members who attended shows in the past 14 days also have to stay at home. Most theatres were operating at full capacity and were not enforcing mask wearing.

“Audiences are scared,” said one theatre producer, who did not want to be named. “People were already asking for refunds or credit notes, now they don’t know if they need to stay at home after seeing a show or not. It’s chaos.”

Guardian Australia understands the lockdown rules apply only to people who live and work in the local government areas, not to people who have been in the area to see a show or socialise.

Hamilton and Come From Away, having already reduced their audience capacities to 50% in recent days, are now shuttered. The pause button has also been hit on rehearsals and previews for a slew of productions due to open next week, including Belvoir’s Miss Peony, Sydney Theatre Company’s Triple X, The Wedding Singer at State Theatre and the Hayes Theatre Company’s Merrily We Roll Along.

Productions unable to proceed with the final performances of their seasons include The Cherry Orchard (Belvoir), Happy Days (Old Fitzroy Theatre) and Grand Horizons (Roslyn Packer Theatre).

At time of writing, the Sydney Opera House had not communicated cancellation advice for American Psycho: The Musical or Bangarra Dance Theatre’s SandSong.

Bondi Festival, which was cancelled last year and had already moved its 2021 opening by a week, will be forced to move it again.

Opera Australia paused its productions of Aida and Attila, which was cancelled just after opening last year.

Artistic director Lyndon Terracini said: “This is incredibly disappointing for all our artists and staff who have been working tirelessly to get our Sydney winter season open. It’s particularly distressing for those in the Attila cast who were to have their opening night on Tuesday. However we’ll be back on stage within days, as soon as it’s safe to do so.”

On View, a live dance and video installation featuring the work of local and international artists due to be staged at Sydney Town Hall on 28 and 29 June, has been postponed.

Theatres outside of the four local government areas – North Sydney’s Ensemble Theatre and the Riverside Theatre in Parramatta, for example – will find it difficult to operate because many of the cast, crew, staff and audiences will be affected by the lockdown.

Lisa Campbell, producer at the Hayes Theatre in Potts Point, remained optimistic, saying: “The prevailing mood is one of déjà vu but we’re still buoyant. We were able to have our first preview in front of a half-capacity audience and it was wonderful. At least we’re able to press pause and be confident that when we press play again, everything will be fine.”

Unknown at the moment is what support will be available from the state government. “We are hoping for support because this is a mandated lockdown,” Campbell said. “We are still continuing to pay people under contract.”


Elissa Blake

The GuardianTramp

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