Nimax, which owns six of London’s West End theatres, has announced that it will start opening up all of them, beginning with the Apollo on 22 October.
The announcement came on the six-month anniversary of the last performance in the West End.
Nimax Chief Executive Nica Burns said,
I am delighted to announce that we will be switching on all our lights and reopening with a special season of fantastic entertainment.
From 22 October to 8 November at the Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue is This is Going to Hurt written and performed by the ex-NHS doctor, comedian Adam Kay. His first performance on Thursday 22 October will be a free performance for NHS staff.
It’s extremely heartening that Theatreland is starting to gear up again. The people you see on stage are the very tip of the theatre iceberg – behind the scenes are hundreds of hard-working staff – from electricians to stage managers to lighting techs to box office to carpenters – huge numbers of whom fell between the gaps of government support. I’m very proud to return to the West End, following the extraordinary efforts of Nimax to do so in a way that’s safe for staff and theatregoers alike, and doubly proud to open the run with a free show for NHS staff, who can clearly do with a night out more than anyone.
The seasons of special shows will reopen each of Nimax’s six theatres before the return of its long-running shows. Details of these special seasons will be announced over the next fortnight.
The company’s biggest show, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child will return once social distancing has ended and the Palace Theatre can play to full capacity. Also returning will be Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (Apollo Theatre), Magic Goes Wrong (Vaudeville Theatre) and The Play That Goes Wrong (Duchess Theatre).
The theatres will open with social distancing to comply with current government COVID-19 guidelines. With reduced capacities, the company will not make a profit but will earn a contribution to its costs. The furlough support scheme ends on 31 October, and this income will help Nimax retain its workforce.
In a statement, the company explained its reasoning:
Like all businesses, we looked at our business strategy post 31 October when the furlough scheme ends. As part of this, we looked at the financial and human cost of large-scale redundancies. We preferred to put the potential redundancy monies towards employment rather than unemployment. When we then fully open, we will have our fantastic workforce in place, saving the cost of recruiting again. With this plan, we will not be making a profit but we will be earning a contribution to our costs post-furlough which will enable us to achieve 4 key aims: saving jobs, assisting the stimulation of London’s economy, fulfilling audience demand, and helping to build up consumer confidence with a return to central London and indoor entertainment spaces.
Nimax is the smallest of the four large West End theatre owning companies. The smaller the theatre and the shows it presents, the lower the costs. Hamilton, The Lion King, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new musical Cinderella are very expensive to run – both the shows and the theatres – on a weekly basis. Conversely, costs for The Play That Goes Wrong in the 500 seat Duchess Theatre are substantially lower.
The culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, wrote this week that the “theatre is a lynchpin of London’s West End and its absence is painfully reflected in its deserted streets”, but even with reduced capacities, Nimax will be able to entertain over 20,000 customers a week.
Tickets are on sale now at www.nimaxtheatres.com as is registration for NHS staff to enter the ballot for the free performance.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.