Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber has warned that the arts sector is at “the point of no return” as it continues to struggle amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The musical theatre legend has been trialling measures at the London Palladium that could allow British theatres to reopen.
A production of Sir Andrew’s musical The Phantom of the Opera was able to go ahead in South Korea with strict hygiene measures and no social distancing.
“I'm absolutely confident that the air in the London Palladium and in all my theatres is purer than the air outside,” Sir Andrew told the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee.
He said of socially distanced performances and the forthcoming Frozen musical: “Disney would be lucky to make their investment back on that show for two or three years. The margins are incredibly tight.”
Sir Andrew later said it was essential to get the arts sector “back open and running … We are at the point of no return really”.
He suggested that arts funding could be channelled better, “rather than putting it down a bottomless pit … chucking money to keep these buildings going”.
Asked whether he had received an answer about why people are allowed to travel on planes but not attend theatre shows, Sir Andrew said: “I have not had a satisfactory answer.”
The 72-year-old, who is holding socially distanced auditions for a new production of The Phantom of the Opera, said it could take “between three or four months” to get up and running again.
“A new show coming from scratch, that would be longer. If I were allowed now to go ahead with my new show, the earliest we could start rehearsals would be January because we've got to cast it. We're doing the best we can with socially distanced auditions.”
He had a final message for the government: “Give us a date."
Additional reporting by Press Association
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