|The show goes on in London's West End, but for how long?. — Photo officiallondontheatre.com
LONDON — The bright lights of London's West End theatre district were undimmed this weekend with punters lining up to catch the biggest shows, but the industry faces dark times ahead with a coronavirus lockdown looming.
Britain has yet to formally announce a ban on public gatherings, and thousands packed the historic theatres last Friday, snatching what may be their last chance to enjoy a memorable night out for some time.
"You can't always stay at home, and I have my gel to keep my hands clean," joked John, a slightly nervous Tina Turner fan as he took his seat for the London musical about the US singer.
"I trust the authorities and scientists who said theatres can stay open," said one elderly ticketholder, who had come to see Tina to celebrate 50 years together with his wife.
Nearby, people queued in front of the Lyceum Theatre's Greek colonnades for a showing of The Lion King, including a dozen people gathered around a young woman carrying a "30-years-old!" balloon.
Britain has been criticised for not following other European countries and banning large gatherings, with government advisers arguing that prematurely rolling out measures could do more harm than good.
But the government is expected to take the next step on Tuesday, a move that will send the sector into crisis.
"The coronavirus pandemic could deal a 'hammer blow' to the UK music industry" the industry organisation UK Theatre recently warned in a letter to the culture minister.
"It will hit not just those who are directly employed in our industry, but the wider supply chain such as caterers and other retailers who depend on our sector for work," it added. — AFP