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Stephen Fry issues rallying cry as entertainment industry struggles through coronavirus crisis

PUBLISHED: 06:00 05 May 2020 | UPDATED: 12:55 05 May 2020

Stephen Fry, who lives in Norfolk, has given his take on the state of the theatre and entertainment industry amid the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Archant

Stephen Fry, who lives in Norfolk, has given his take on the state of the theatre and entertainment industry amid the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Archant

Archant

Stephen Fry has issued a rousing battle cry to the region’s theatres and entertainment venues left fearing for their futures as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Theatre Royal, Norwich, has been forced to postpone and cancel a host of shows due to the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: ArchantThe Theatre Royal, Norwich, has been forced to postpone and cancel a host of shows due to the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Archant

The actor, comedian and writer - who lives in Norfolk - has called on the industry to do whatever it can to ensure theatres and the world of live entertainment survives the ongoing crisis.

His comments came after Sir Cameron Mackintosh said West End theatres were unlikely to stage performances until early next year.

The esteemed theatre producer told BBC Radio 2’s Michael Ball Show that planning for the reopening of venues would not take place “until social distancing doesn’t exist any more”.

MORE: Theatre bosses fear they will be shut for the rest of the year

Stephen Fry, who lives in Norfolk, has given his take on the state of the theatre and entertainment industry amid the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: ArchantStephen Fry, who lives in Norfolk, has given his take on the state of the theatre and entertainment industry amid the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Archant

And Mr Fry has echoed Sir Cameron’s assertion that the safety of actors and audience members must be the most pressing concern.

“‘Dark’ is the word we use to describe a closed theatre, and these are dark times indeed,” said Mr Fry.

“Very sadly, by its intrinsic nature, live indoor entertainment is likely to be the very last to open up. The reasons are obvious and, as leading figures like Sir Cameron Mackintosh have made clear, the safety of audiences, actors and theatre staff must be paramount.

“The very quality that makes theatre so thrilling and compelling – the united presence of an audience clustered together to experience live performance – is what makes the enterprise so unsuited in a period of necessary social distancing.”

Great Yarmouth Hippodrome could see dozens of events cancelled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: ArchantGreat Yarmouth Hippodrome could see dozens of events cancelled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Archant

The 62-year-old, who in March urged his millions of social media followers to be “friendly and kind to each other” during the pandemic, also agreed entertainment venues were unlikely to open again in 2020.

“I cannot see any theatres opening to live audiences before next year I’m afraid,” added Mr Fry.

“Perhaps March or April, a full year after the first lockdown. It is my understanding this is a shared view across the theatre and entertainment world.

“Contact tracing, the wearing of masks, more universal testing, a viable vaccine and whatever else technology, planning and medical science can do to help will hasten the day of course.”

But the actor, famed for his role in Blackadder and time presenting QI, emphasised theatre’s importance as something to look forward to once the worst of the crisis has passed.

“For the moment everyone in the theatre world is doing what Churchill enjoined during the last war: hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst,” said Mr Fry.

“Even in the plague-ridden years of Shakespeare, theatre survived. We must do what we can to make sure that there is a world of live drama and entertainment for us as a nation when the all-clear has sounded.”

• For the latest COVID-19 news, visit the Norfolk Coronavirus Updates Facebook page.

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