It’s curtains for Cape theatres as Covid-19 lockdown takes its toll
Theatre halls, normally brimming with audiences, both local and from abroad, are resembling graveyards as the lights are out in all of them - and could be for a long time to come.
Marketing manager of the Baxter Theatre Centre, Fahiem Stellenboom, said: “The impact on The Baxter’s revenue as well as artists and the arts is devastating. Our main sources of revenue come from ticket sales and theatre rentals, neither of which is possible at the moment and over the next few months. We aren't sure what further restrictions will be in place beyond the lockdown - and that's a concern.”
At the time that the lockdown was announced, David Kramer’s hit musical, Danger in the Dark, had two weeks left of its performance.
“That meant a huge loss of revenue considering that it was a fairly large cast and team. The Baxter honoured all these contracts. Tally Ho!’s production of The Last Few Years was about to open but couldn’t, so the show was postponed for a later date,” Stellenboom said.
The chief executive of the Artscape theatre, Marlene le Roux, said: “This has a massive impact, especially on our revenue but also for the artists - they're making even more of a loss. The arts industry itself has already been beset by little funding and this will add an even bigger knock. The arts industry won’t be the same.”
As a result of Covid-19 and as part of the regulations, gatherings of more than 50 people are prohibited. It led to a number of shows, festivals and performances being cancelled. It has also resulted in internationally-acclaimed festivals being forced to postpone.
In a statement, The Fugard Theatre said: “The livelihoods of countless performing arts professionals are at stake. The health and well-being of our audiences, actors and The Fugard staff remain our foremost concern.”
The Department of Arts and Culture has set aside R150 million to help the sector amid the coronavirus outbreak that has left creatives without jobs. The allocated funds will be for the first quarter in the new financial year because the programmes the department had planned to fund have now been cancelled.
The spokesperson for Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa, Masechaba Khumalo, said: “In facilitating the implementation of the relief fund, the department developed a number of instruments to assist all applicants and loaded all the tools on to various departmental platforms, including social media.”@MarvinCharles17