More Cancellations - Almost half of London's major theatres were forced to cancel performances last weekend because of Covid infections, as Omicron plays havoc with live events. Of the 46 full members of the Society of London Theatre that had shows running, 22 scrapped performances.They included Hamilton, Matilda, Wicked, The Lion King, Cinderella, Cabaret and Come From Away.
Producer Sir Cameron Mackintosh said it was "hugely disruptive" and the industry was in a "dreadful state". He told BBC News: "It's literally day-to-day. We spend all morning trying to work out if we can do the show or not. The important thing is, when we do it, it is safe, and the public have been remarkable in that they are, in our experience, turning up mostly to the shows."
Bookings for the first part of 2022 are well below expectations, which is "really worrying for almost everybody across the business", he said. "It's understandable why, but this is why we desperately need the government to step in and help the commercial theatre, because by and large the commercial theatre hasn't had any help at all across the pandemic.
"We've all used our reserves to get the shows back up. At the point that we're trying to recoup some of our losses, we are in a dreadful state at the moment and desperately need the government to help commercial theatre going through the next few weeks."
Most commercial theatres, which covers the mainstream West End and big regional venues that host hit shows, were not eligible for the government's Culture Recovery Fund.
Brit Awards - When the Brit Awards announced they would scrap the gendered categories that separate male and female talent last month, there were fears it would result in women being overlooked. Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said she was "concerned" about female representation, while Piers Morgan called the move "woke garbage".
But the first nominations under the new system actually deliver the most female nominees in more than a decade, with Adele, Olivia Rodrigo and Dua Lipa all in the running for multiple prizes. Adele ties with Ed Sheeran, Little Simz and Dave for the most nominations. They receive four apiece, and all feature in the best album and best British artist categories.
Sam Fender completes the shortlist for those awards, and picks up a third citation for best rock artist. Rap newcomer Central Cee also achieves three nominations, including best new artist. Little Mix, who this year became the first female act to win best British group, are in the running for that prize once again.
Oh Yes it Is - A one-year degree in pantomime is being launched by a university. Staffordshire University claims it is a world first and the masters course is aimed at people working inside as well as outside the industry. Students on the course, due to start in September 2022, will get practical training in the art form as well as research the discipline.
"We want to see how far we can take this," Associate Professor of Acting and Directing Robert Marsden said. The role of pantomime in the 21st Century was also going to be examined, he said, "particularly post Me Too and Black Lives Matter".
Questions including "how do we address the gender issues, how do we tell the story of Aladdin in 2021, how do we get that balance of male/female roles?" will be asked, Prof Marsden added.
(Jim Evans)
21 December 2021

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