It’s been three months since the UK’s theatres went dark. As the COVID-19 pandemic swept through the world, life as we know it changed irrevocably. First of course, the closing of our entertainment venues was a necessary evil. We knew that in order to ‘control the virus’, spaces that drew large crowds and kept them in close proximity to each other could be the perfect breeding ground for the Coronavirus. As an industry, we knew this was bad, but, we’re a pretty resourceful bunch, looking for positives, forming support networks ,searching for an answer...a way forward.

This wonderful industry of ours continues to seek out ways of making this work, but as most of us who ‘know’ theatre realise, making things work with any form of social distancing in place, is more or less a pipe dream. And so came the news this month that Cameron Mackintosh would not reopen any of his theatres or productions this side of 2020. Another blow – but not an unexpected one. Simply put, it is not financially viable to open up our theatres, capable of holding hundreds, even thousands of eager audience members, to crowds of less than a hundred.

Unusual has collaborated on several of Mackintosh’s productions – Mary Poppins, Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon...to name a few. We’ve also completed refurbishment and renovation projects within his theatres, ensuring that these great century old buildings – landmarks on the streets of London - can continue to play to packed houses for years to come.

The government are making all the right noises, agreeing that it would be a catastrophe to see the industry destroyed, but with no tangible practical support, venues and producers are being left with no choice other than to remain closed, begin the redundancy process and hope for survival. This then filters all the way down the food chain, having a profound impact on companies like Unusual who are an integral part of the live production industry and without whom, we can quite confidently say, it would be impossible to stage the lavish shows audiences have become accustomed to. Without the riggers, lighting guys, sound teams, scenery and props designers there would be no shows.

As Mackintosh explains in his statement, “Their inability to say when the impossible constraints of social distancing will be lifted makes it equally impossible for us to properly plan for whatever the new future is...Without our theatres being ablaze with life, London cannot properly reopen as one of the World’s greatest cities.”

We know that, even when theatres get the green light to reopen – with or without social distancing in place, it will take months of preparation for the productions we’re involved with to be remounted. Unusual Rigging, of course, will be waiting in the wings. Theatre isn’t just our bread and butter – it’s in our blood and in the very foundations of the business.

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