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  • Afterword
  • Nicholas Holden (bio)

As the Omicron variant of COVID-19, the virus's most transmissible strain to date, took hold across the United Kingdom in December 2021, with London at its epicentre, the impact of illness and enforced isolation on productions brought fresh challenges to the city's cultural landscape coming into the new year. In the weekend before Christmas, almost half of productions in London were forced to close due to staff shortages, leaving theatres in what producer Cameron Mackintosh described as "a dreadful state."1 In the midst of what should have been a profitable season for the industry, theatres were instead forced to live day-to-day, unable to commit to performances beyond a twenty-four-hour window. Audiences, too, have suffered. Having returned to support theatres as restrictions in England eased, many are now unable to commit to attending the theatre coming into 2022, fearful both of the virus's increasing presence and the financial impact of a last-minute show cancellation. With additional governmental support unlikely, the situation looks only to deteriorate further as the year ensues. Postponements and ultimately closures seem an inevitability. Indeed, many within the industry—actors, producers, directors, writers, technical teams, front of house staff, and the myriad others who enable London's theatre to function in a way worthy of its world-leading status—are choosing to leave to pursue new careers, unable to sustain themselves any longer. We are undoubtedly living through one of the most difficult periods in theatre history, but the true impact of the pandemic on the industry's future both in terms of the communities and places that shape London's theatre may not be fully realized for some time.

Nicholas Holden

Nicholas Holden is Senior Lecturer in Drama at the University of Greenwich, UK. He is co-editor of the book series Playwriting and the Contemporary: Critical Collaborations (Liverpool University Press, UK). Alongside this, he is the author of book chapters and articles in the areas of Contemporary British Theatre, and Creative Arts Practice in London, and is the co-editor of the forthcoming edited collection: Beautiful Doom: the Work of Dennis Kelly on Stage and Screen (Manchester University Press, UK, 2023).


1. Ian Youngs, 'Omicron: Half of West End Theatres Hit by Covid Cancellations at the Weekend.', BBC NEWS, 20 December 2021, (accessed 7 January 2022).



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