Side Hustles and Handouts: A Tough Year Ahead for U.K. Theater Workers

Freelancers — each actors and backstage crew members like Boucher — are the lifeblood of Britain’s theaters, making up an estimated 70 p.c of the nation’s 290,000 staff within the performing arts, in line with U.Ok. Theater, a commerce physique. However that workforce’s flexibility makes it significantly uncovered to any modifications in coronavirus restrictions.

Dealing with a brand new wave of the virus, England on Monday went right into a nationwide lockdown once more. Theatrical performances are banned for months, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson has stated restrictions might final until March 31, which implies Britain’s estimated 200,000 freelance theater staff are as soon as extra going through monetary bother and in search of methods to get by.

Boucher guessed it might be April, at finest, earlier than he might work once more in a theater. On Monday, with payments piling up, he utilized to the Theater Artists Fund, a physique that offers emergency grants to theater freelancers imperiled by the pandemic. He hoped for 1,000 kilos, or about $1,350.

“I do know it sounds foolish,” Boucher stated, “however £1,000 can actually go a great distance in the mean time.”

The Theatre Artists Fund, which was created by the movie and theater director Sam Mendes as a response to the pandemic, gave out round 4,600 grants final yr in three funding rounds, Eva Mason, a spokeswoman for this system, stated in an e-mail. It reopened to purposes on Monday and acquired “a whole lot” in two days, she added.

Just some weeks in the past, Britain’s theaters appeared to be on the verge of a triumphant return. On Dec. 5, “Six,” the hit musical about the wives of Henry VIII, returned to the West Finish, in London, alongside a number of different exhibits together with a live performance model of “Les Misérables.” However then restrictions were tightened in the city, forcing these to close, after which got here the nationwide lockdown — England’s third since March.

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