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How opening night became closing night…

Theatre brings musical forward ahead of Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions coming into force

18 December, 2020 — By Richard Osley

The cast of Forever Plaid practise harmonies

A THEATRE in Highgate village used the last hours before London was thrown into “Tier 3” coronavirus restrictions to stage a performance of a musical it hoped would be a Christmas treat.

The opening – and for the time being, closing – night ­of Forever Plaid at the Upstairs At The Gatehouse was brought forward after the government ruled that the infection rate was too high to allow pubs, restaurants and theatres to stay open.

The theatre now has to hope that the number of cases in the capital falls to allow it to reopen the show after Christmas.

Theatre owners John and Katie Plews have earned a reputation for staging rave-reviewed musicals every Christmas, having turned a disused storeroom above the pub into a vibrant theatre 22 years ago.

John and Katie Plews

Mr Plews said: “We can’t be angry. Gutted is the only quotable word for it. We knew there was a risk of this happening but we made a decision to try and put on the show. A lot of hard work has gone into it and we feel for everybody involved.”

The latest disruption follows a disastrous year for theatres which have needed arts recovery fund grants to help them during periods of lockdown.

Mr Plews said: “We can’t control Covid ­– that’s out of hands ­– but we have done what we can. We’ve spent a lot of money on Perspex, hand sanitiser and changing the fire escape to create a flow through the theatre.

“It’s hard when you look at shops and shopping streets and see no social distancing and think: Well, we’ve done all this to make things safe but have to close.”

Friday night would have been Forever Plaid’s opening night.

“The recovery grant has tided us over but we haven’t earned a penny since March and we want our income to come from putting on shows – that’s what we all love,” said Mr Plews, who also thanked supporters who had offered donations. “I feel sorry for the freelancers that the industry relies who have had no support at all.”

Theatres in London must now wait to see if there is any relaxation of the rules as the tiers are reviewed.

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