Sam Mendes calls on British government to save U.K. theatre industry

Director Sam Mendes has implored British government officials to put together a “rescue package” to save the U.K. theatre industry in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Covid-19 outbreak has brought the live events sector to a standstill since March, and without productions to put on, many venues and companies are facing the prospect of going out of business – unless authorities step in and lend their support.

In a Financial Times op-ed, published on Friday, the 1917 filmmaker, who has found success in film and on the stage, declares the coronavirus crisis “the biggest challenge to Britain’s cultural life since the outbreak of the Second World War,” explaining theatre and live entertainment are in “grave danger” of disappearing altogether.

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He notes how streaming services have surged in popularity during the lockdown period, with many of the cast and crew members featured in streaming content getting their start in the theatre world, which he describes as “an ecosystem that supports us all”.

“It would be deeply ironic if the streaming services – Netflix, Amazon Prime et al – should be making lockdown millions from our finest acting, producing, writing and directing talent, while the very arts culture that nurtured that talent pool is allowed to die,” he shares, as he calls on streaming company bosses to “use a fraction of their Covid-19 windfall” to benefit those in the performing arts.

Mendes goes on to outline his proposal for saving the industry, including a tax relief programme, calling for a government fund to help struggling freelancers and self-employed artists, and suggesting politicians in charge view theatre as potential financial investment: “This is not a request for a handout, or for long-term life support,” he maintained. “It is an offer for the government to become partners in a successful business.”

London’s West End is expected to remain shuttered until at least 2 August amid continued coronavirus concerns.

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