The National Theatre today confirmed that 400 casual workers will lose their jobs as the theatre industry continues to feel the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
The NT revealed it will pay 250 front of house and 150 backstage staff members until the end of August but they will not be kept on afterwards.
The news comes just days after the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester announced it had made 65 per cent of its permanent redundant in a bid to safeguard the theatre’s future.
The National Theatre (pictured) in London announced it has made 400 casual staff redundant as the theatre industry continues to feel the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic
The NT joins the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester (pictured) in making staff redundant, with the London theatre company axing 250 front of house staff and 150 backstage workers
A National Theatre spokesperson said: ‘We have committed to paying our casual staff until the end of August, but very sadly due to the changes in the government Job Retention Scheme we simply cannot afford to offer financial support beyond that point.’
As many lockdown restrictions are set to be lifted in England on Saturday, including the reopening of pubs and cinemas, it remains unlikely that theatres will be allowed to reopen in the near future, despite Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden’s five-step roadmap to reopen theatres last week.
Mr Dowden’s strategy was described as too vague and needing more investment and the National Theatre have since stated that the decision to make staff redundant was ‘inevitable’.
The casual workers were informed of the decision by the NT in an email on Friday, while the company added it is just midway through its redundancy process.
NT chief executives Lisa Burger and Rufus Norris admitted that redundancies will continue unless they receive more support from the Government.
Jasmin Mandi-Ghomi, a playwright who works as an usher at the National Theatre, tweeted: ‘The National Theatre have let all FOH staff go. I now have no job whatsoever. Not a single source of income. God I loved that job so much. How can the arts have been let down this badly by the government?’
One playwright and National Theatre usher claimed the theatre industry has been ‘let down by the Government’ as other businesses, including cinemas and pubs, are set to reopen on Saturday
She also told The Guardian: ‘They [the NT] don’t know when they’re going to reopen and they have three auditoriums, without knowing when people are going to be back in or how they’re going to keep people safe.
‘It just needs to survive at this point. I understand why they’ve done it, but it is still hard.’
Former Artistic Director of the National Theatre, Sir Nicholas Hynter, told BBC Newsnight on Friday night that the country is reaching the ‘critical point’ for the survival of theatres.
He said: ‘I have heard that this something that Oliver Dowden and Rishi Sunak are taking seriously.
‘But unless there is a substantial and unprecedented rescue package as part of the July Statement next week, we are really looking at waves of insolvencies, waves of redundancies. We are looking at the whole ecosystem breaking down.’
Sir Nicholas also called for the Government to start investing money in the future, instead of paying money towards closing venues such as theatres down.
He added: ‘It will cost countless millions in redundancy payments. It would be money spent on closing things down, when it could be money spent on investing in the future.’
‘Great institutions, small institutions are simply going to go to the wall. That will cost a fortune in monetary capital as well as, of course, in human capital.
‘Why would you not want to preserve British culture? There are rescue packages that have been established all over Europe. Italy, for instance, has announced five billion euros for culture and tourism.’
The National Theatre was wrapped in tape on Friday as part of the ‘Miss Live Theatre campaign’ to give messages of support to the theatre industry.
The idea was created by Scene Change, a collective of British Theatre Designers and several other theatres will be covered in the tape over the weekend.
The NT was covered in tape on Friday as part of the ‘Missing Live Theatre’ campaign giving messages of support to theatre companies across the UK
The campaign was set up by the group ‘Scene Change’ and it will be taking place in major theatres in Edinburgh, Manchester, Cardiff and Belfast across the weekend
The Royal Exchange Theatre will also take part in the scheme on Friday, along with the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh, Lyric Belfast and Cardiff’s Sherman Theatre.
Several of London’s West End theatres are also set to be wrapped on Saturday.
Scene Change said: ‘As businesses begin to reopen, the doors of theatres remain firmly shut whilst we navigate a way back to live performance.
‘This is a moment of reset in our industry and we believe the design community can be an essential part of the transformation that will see theatre buildings being reopened and the ways in which theatre can be re-imagined.
‘As shapers of theatrical space through the use of people and place, our work is pivotal in connecting an entire ecosystem within the theatre industry.
‘We are ideally positioned to be at the heart of any discussions about how theatre operates in the future.’