Covid outbreaks force string of West End cancellations

The Lion King, Life of Pi and the National’s Hex among shows affected during crucial festive season

West End shows including The Lion King have had to cancel performances owing to outbreaks of coronavirus among cast and crew.

The festive period is crucial to theatres, generating about a third of their income, but rising case numbers and the spread of the Omicron variant have prompted a number of productions to shut temporarily.

The Lion King at the Lyceum theatre cancelled shows on Tuesday and Wednesday, citing “Covid-enforced absences within our cast and crew”. Performances are due to resume on Thursday.

Life of Pi, based on the 2002 Booker prize-winning novel by the Canadian author Yann Martel, has scrapped five shows at Wyndham’s theatre but says it will return on Wednesday. Producers said there had been “several cases of Covid in the company” despite “robust measures taken”.

The National cancelled a preview of its Christmas show Hex, which is based on Sleeping Beauty, after one of its lead actors caught Covid.

On Tuesday the theatre said the rescheduled show and subsequent performances had now been cancelled after further cases were confirmed, and more information was expected in the new year.

In a letter to theatre critics, the National’s artistic director, Rufus Norris, wrote: “You will no doubt be aware of the impact that Covid has been having on productions across the industry (none of ours over the last year have escaped entirely) but the impact on Hex has been considerable, with several members of the company including one of our leads being taken ill during the technical and preview period, and fresh bad news on that front again today.”

Southwark Playhouse in London announced it was cancelling the remainder of its run of The Rhythmics, described as “Calendar Girls meets The Full Monty”, after having to postpone press night twice. The company blamed positive Covid-19 cases and “the effect of subsequent isolation requirements on the viability of the show”.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at the Troubadour theatre in Wembley is cancelled until Friday. The Royal Shakespeare Company’s The Comedy of Errors at the Barbican in London has also been halted, and hopes to restart on Thursday 23 December.

Other productions affected include Force Majeure at the Donmar Warehouse, Fair Play at the Bush theatre, Wendy & Peter Pan at Leeds Playhouse, and Beauty and the Beast at Coventry’s Belgrade theatre.

Monica Bellucci: Maria Callas Letters and Memoirs at Her Majesty’s theatre has been postponed until April 2022. Moulin Rouge! at the Piccadilly theatre in London restarted on Monday after a Covid-enforced 10-day break.

Theatres now have to ask visitors to wear masks after a large rise in cases. John Plews, the chair of the Society of Independent Theatres and artistic director at the Gatehouse in north London, said at the weekend that bookings for Christmas shows had been hit by between 20% and 50% because of Covid concerns.


Nadia Khomami Arts and culture correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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