Only Fools and Horses The Musical cast take silent stand for struggling theatre industry

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Paul Whitehouse joined the cast of Only Fools and Horses The Musical at Theatre Royal Haymarket in London on Thursday to observe a 15-minute socially-distanced silence in solidarity with those in the industry who have lost their jobs.

The thespians aimed to highlight the lack of Government guidance for the reopening of theatres, and implore the Government to provide the industry with a date when theatres can reopen without social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Last month, venues were allowed to open for the first time since the start of lockdown, but with a majority of seats remaining empty to ensure strict guidelines, many owners say it is not financially viable. 

Making a statement: Paul Whitehouse (centre) joined the cast of Only Fools and Horses The Musical at Theatre Royal Haymarket in London on Thursday

Making a statement: Paul Whitehouse (centre) joined the cast of Only Fools and Horses The Musical at Theatre Royal Haymarket in London on Thursday

Welsh writer Paul, 62, who stars as Granddad in the production, took to stage alongside Tom Bennett, who plays Del Boy, and Rodney actor Ryan Hutton.

Since the show opened in February last year, the musical has been a runaway success and is based off the famous sitcom, which ran from 1981 until 2003 and starred the legendary David Jason, Nicholas Lyndhurst and the late Lennard Pearce. 

Detailing the reason behind the protest, comedian Paul said in a press release, according to Chortle: ‘This stand is to highlight the plight of everyone who works in the theatre industry.

‘Not to mention all the small businesses that survive and thrive as a result of theatre audiences…the restaurants, bars, coffee shops, cabbies and many others.

Important message: The TV icon, 62, observed a 15-minute socially-distanced silence in solidarity with those in the industry who have lost their jobs

Important message: The TV icon, 62, observed a 15-minute socially-distanced silence in solidarity with those in the industry who have lost their jobs

A hit: Since the show opened in February last year, the musical has been a runaway success and is based off the famous sitcom (original cast pictured)

A hit: Since the show opened in February last year, the musical has been a runaway success and is based off the famous sitcom (original cast pictured) 

‘If it’s OK to go to the cinema, it must be OK to go to a show. If it’s OK to go to a crowded airport and sit on a plane for hours, it must be OK to go to a show. You can ventilate a theatre…you can’t open a window on a plane.

‘We need restrictions lifted, or a cohesive date to work towards, so we can plan how to reignite an entire industry.’ 

In recent months, both composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and his longtime producer Sir Cameron Mackintosh have been very vocal about what they say is the UK government’s weak response to help London’s West End during the crisis.

In good company: The Welsh writer, who stars as Granddad in the production, took to stage alongside Tom Bennett (second from left), who plays Del Boy, and Rodney actor Ryan Hutton

In good company: The Welsh writer, who stars as Granddad in the production, took to stage alongside Tom Bennett (second from left), who plays Del Boy, and Rodney actor Ryan Hutton

On a mission: The thespians aimed to highlight the lack of Government guidance for the reopening of theatres

On a mission: The thespians aimed to highlight the lack of Government guidance for the reopening of theatres

Paramount: Detailing the reason behind the protest, comedian Paul said in a press release: 'This stand is to highlight the plight of everyone who works in the theatre industry'

Paramount: Detailing the reason behind the protest, comedian Paul said in a press release: ‘This stand is to highlight the plight of everyone who works in the theatre industry’

Support: Tom sported a protective face mask emblazoned with the show's logo

Coordination: Jeff Nicholson followed his lead

Support: Tom (L) and Jeff Nicholson (R) sported protective face masks emblazoned with the show’s logo

Lots to think about: A crew member appeared downcast during the stand

Lots to think about: A crew member appeared downcast during the stand

'We need to plan how to reignite an entire industry': The group followed social distancing guidelines while making their message loud and clear

‘We need to plan how to reignite an entire industry’: The group followed social distancing guidelines while making their message loud and clear

The theatre owner, 73, contends that the UK government’s £1.4 billion arts lifeline, which includes £488 million for Arts Council England to support theaters, music and comedy venues and museums, ‘still hasn’t materialised,’ according to Variety. 

In August, Sir Cameron was forced to make 200 staff redundant from his West End theatres in a blow to an industry already on its knees since the start of lockdown. 

The Oliver! producer, who owns eight West End venues and has produced hits such as Les Miserables, Phantom Of The Opera and Hamilton, issued redundancy notices after being unable to reopen any of his theatres.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently pledged £1.57 billion to keep the arts sector afloat but Sir Cameron has urged the Government to do more.

Speaking out: Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber has been very vocal about what he says is the UK government's weak response to help the theater industry(pictured in 2016)

Speaking out: Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber has been very vocal about what he says is the UK government’s weak response to help the theater industry(pictured in 2016) 

Unfortunate: In August, Sir Cameron Mackintosh made 200 staff redundant from his West End theatres in a blow to an industry already on its knees (pictured in 2012)

Unfortunate: In August, Sir Cameron Mackintosh made 200 staff redundant from his West End theatres in a blow to an industry already on its knees (pictured in 2012) 

He previously said: ‘We are likely have to push back our openings until next summer, causing further devastating losses to both the theatre industry and London’s economy – to which I have already contributed more than £1 billion in tax.

‘As a staunch Conservative, I have always admired Boris’s Churchillian spirit and so it would be a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions if history was to mark him down as the Prime Minister who presided over the closing down of one of Britain’s cultural and economic treasures for longer than the Black Death.’

A spokesman for Sir Cameron, who was knighted in 1996 for services to musical theatre, said: ‘It is a very sad time for everyone affected by this thankless situation, one we could never have imagined would have been forced upon the industry.’

Film director Sir Sam Mendes says opening theatres with social distancing will be like ‘pouring money down the drain’ 

Sir Sam Mendes says opening theatres with social distancing will be like ‘pouring money down the drain’.

Live indoor theatre and concerts can resume with the measures in place from the start of next month.

But the Bond filmmaker told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that ‘any theatre has to run at 60 per cent, 70 per cent capacity to even break even’.

He added: ‘So to run at 30 per cent capacity… basically means pouring money down the drain, money which is not there.’

Sir Sam wants theatres to reopen without social distancing at the end of the year.

‘I’m not arguing that they should reopen with no social distancing now,’ he told Today.

‘But there has to be a ‘no earlier than’ date – my suggestion is that should be early December, which gives theatres time to plan.’

He said it would be ‘up to the audience on whether they want to take the risk’, adding that ‘at the moment there’s a risk just leaving the house…’ 

A fund set up by Sir Sam to help workers in the theatre industry has raised £1.6 million.

The director of films such as Skyfall and 1917, and plays including The Lehman Trilogy and Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, said the money will be used to support 1,600 freelancers.

However, almost 4,000 people have applied for support from the Theatre Artists Fund in one week.

Stars including Imelda Staunton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Eddie Redmayne, Colin Firth and Hugh Bonneville have donated to the fund, which was established with a £500,000 donation from streaming giant Netflix.

Sir Sam urged others to ‘come forward and show their support in order to help those in need’. 

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