Londoner’s Diary: Theatres struggling as Omicron wreaks havoc – Evening Standard

February 8, 2022
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Genevieve Gaunt and Rufus Norris
ONDON’S theatres are still “hanging on by a thread” following a difficult Christmas period, The Londoner hears, as the National Theatre revealed its profits dropped by £50 million last year.
The National, led by artistic director Rufus Norris, released its accounts up to April 2021 last week, which show it lost a quarter of its staff, and took only £800,000 in sales.
Since December, a series of shows across town have been cancelled, including Pride and Prejudice* (*Sort Of) at the Criterion Theatre and a tour of Bring It On: The Musical, while Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella musical chose to stop performances until February 9.
This month’s new writing festival VAULT was cancelled due to the spread of the Omicron variant.
Paul Fleming, the General Secretary of performers’ union Equity, said this morning: “Responsibility for the collapse of ticket sales lies with MPs who voted for restrictions with no economic or social support for workers in December.”
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Theatre director Max Lindsay told us: “Theatres are hanging on by a thread at the moment — ticket sales are really low and Omicron cases mean shows are relying on understudies to step up at a moment’s notice.”
Actor Genevieve Gaunt, who had a play ‘The Estate’ written by Shaan Sahota cancelled, said she was “disappointed” and worried about the threat to new work. “Only the shows that are more high-profile and have an engine behind them will go on”.
AN Essex field could be in for an eye-catching name-change at the request of a late Lord Mayor of London. Sir Roger Gifford’s widow, Lady Clare, has put in an application for a memorial in Epping Forest to her husband, who died last year of a rare cancer. The memorial would be in Gifford Wood, which was planted in 2013 after a charitable appeal by the former Lord Mayor. The application’s summary ends: “In line with Sir Roger’s wishes, expressed during visits to Gifford Wood, it is proposed that the lower meadow on Horseshoe Hill is named Lord Mayor’s Bottom.” That’s what you call a cheeky tribute.
Diana, Princess of Wales
SPENCER screenwriter Steven Knight insists Princess Diana was actually just a “very ordinary person” who was thrown into an “extraordinary situation”, he tells ScreenDaily. He says of the “middle-of-the-road” Diana, who grew up in a stately home on the Queen’s Sandringham estate: “She loved Cats. She was just a nice, ordinary person.” Very girl-next-door… if you’re a member of the royal family.
Ricky Gervais
RICKY GERVAIS has no time for his trolls. “They just want to be noticed, they’re cavemen blowing woad onto their hands,” the Afterlife star explains, before conjuring a helpful, if startling, mental image. “You’ve got to imagine that you’re walking down the street and there’s something living in a bin covered in s**t,” Gervais tells Rolling Stone. “He shouts ‘you c***!’ Would you go back and argue with him or just keep walking? You’d f***ing ignore him.” Perhaps Gervais’s frequent walks around Hampstead Heath aren’t so genteel.
Jess Phillips
JESS PHILLIPS is fuming about the substance — and the name — of Boris Johnson’s reported “Operation Red Meat” to get his voters and his own supporters back on side amid the partygate scandal. “Grow up, you massive man baby and stop giving everything operational titles,” she writes online. Operation Grow Up?

ALSO focused on Boris Johnson is his Conservative colleague, Royston Smith MP, who has offered one of the weakest attempts to cover for him The Londoner has seen yet: “Everyone did their best. Almost no one got it right all the time. I say, ‘they who are without sin, let them cast the first stone’.” Well, he tried.

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