Oliver Dowden said he wants “to raise the curtain on live performances” as soon as possible and save Britain’s theatres from the coronavirus crisis. It comes after the Daily Express launched its Raise The Curtain crusade to keep the industry alive. The phased return will initially let socially distanced performances take place outdoors. Mr Dowden said live performances are “the soul of our nation and a lynchpin of our world-beating creative industries”.
He said: “We know the challenges. Theatres must be full to make money, and performers need to be safe on stage as they sing, dance and play instruments.
“But I am determined to ensure the performing arts do not stay closed longer than is absolutely necessary to protect public health.
“I know the public wants its theatres open, our brilliant performers want to go back to work, and we will do all we can to get them fully back up and running.”
Earlier this week, Boris Johnson announced that theatres and concert halls could reopen from July 4, but not for live performances.
The Culture Secretary has now outlined his roadmap to the Cultural Renewal taskforce.
Stage one will see rehearsals with no audiences, with participants adhering to social distancing guidelines.
Stage two introduces performances for broadcast purposes. Next up will be performances outdoors with an audience, plus some indoor “pilot” performances with a limited audience.
Performances will then be allowed to take place both indoors and outdoors with a distanced audience indoors.
Finally, stage five will see performances allowed indoors with a fuller audience.
But there was anger from industry insiders at a failure to announce additional funding, which hundreds of venues say is now crucial to their survival.
The roadmap also failed to give any timeline, although stage one and two can take place now.
Actors’ union Equity said without a huge cash investment the Government guidance “will be meaningless”.
Leicester’s Curve Theatre artistic director Nikolai Foster said: “While the roadmap offers optimism, we urgently need financial investment and suggested time frames on the latter stages for this plan to become a reality.
“Without this, our hands remain tied and this dire situation only continues to get worse.”
The Birmingham Hippodrome and UK Theatre head Fiona Allan said: “We need dates to work towards in order to plan properly or jobs will be lost and more venues will close.”
Venues have been shut since March, with many warning that they will go out of business in the coming months without support.
Prior to lockdown the UK’s creative industries were growing at almost twice the rate of the wider British economy, worth £84billion annually and employing 1.9 million people.
But with no shows to sell they face £330million in lost revenue.
Hundreds of venues are currently drawing up redundancy plans.