London's Theatreland set for cautious return as shows reopen in West End

Audiences will have to follow a script of strict social distancing measures

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London's theatres are scheduled to reopen next week as the curtain falls on England's lockdown.

Theatre-goers will be allowed back to venues in the West End and elsewhere in the capital after Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave approval for the next step out of lockdown on Friday.

Audiences will have to follow strict social distancing measures once inside.

Theatre bosses say they are expecting the return to be cautious, although ticket sales are relatively buoyant.

Only about a third of London theatres will reopen from next week, including those playing productions such as Wicked, Hamilton, and Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cinderella as producers await the final phase-out of lockdown in June to reopen.

Last year it was feared that up to 70 per cent of London's theatres could close without a financial lifeline following the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

"The bigger shows need the fuller capacity. Their running costs are just too high. They can't get by on 50 per cent of the seats," said Julian Bird, chief executive of the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre.

Among those returning next week is The Mousetrap at St Martin's Theatre, which is still the world's longest-running play.

Also returning are Everybody's Talking About Jamie, Les Miserables The Staged Concert and the musical Amelie.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 29:  St Martins Theatre in the West End showing Agatha Christie's 'The Mousetrap', which is the longest running show in the world, is illuminated at night on March 29, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

Despite a difficult past year, those in the industry say they are delighted to be back at work.

"So many people are still waiting for that call to come," Elliott Griggs, lighting designer for the Amelie production, said. "So I feel very lucky to be here and back doing this job."

Theatre shows returning next week:

  • The Mousetrap at St Martin's Theatre – Monday
  • Reunion (English National Ballet) at Sadler's Wells – Monday
  • 21st Century Choreographers (Royal Ballet) at the Royal Opera House – Tuesday
  • Amelie The Musical at Criterion Theatre – Thursday
  • Les Miserables: The Staged Concert at the Sondheim Theatre – Thursday
  • Cruise at the Duchess Theatre – Thursday
  • Herding Cats at the Soho Theatre – Thursday
  • Six at the Lyric Theatre – Friday
  • Harm at the Bush Theatre – Friday
  • Everybody's Talking About Jamie at the Apollo Theatre – Friday
  • Overflow (Alexander Whitley Dance Company) at Sadler's Wells – Friday
  • Abba Mania! at Shaftesbury Theatre – Friday