A Nottingham theatre boss believes it will take them several years to recover as the industry is estimated to lose £630 million as a result of the pandemic.
Venue closures have led to huge financial losses because of a loss of income from ticket sales as well as the closure of bars, restaurants and cafés within them.
In August last year 5,000 staff were made redundant across the UK – 2,000 more than the previous month according to most recent figures from the trade union, Bectu.
Nottingham’s Theatre Royal were forced to close when lockdown struck in March last year – its first enforced closure in its 155-year history.
Peter Ireson is the venue director having been in the role since August 2019.
He said: “I think it could take two or three years for us to rebuild audiences back to the levels we were at before.
“We are what’s called a presenting house or touring venue, so we don’t produce any of our own work as we book shows which are performed all over the country.
“What the pandemic’s done is create a hiatus in the supply chain of shows and musicals.
“They don’t just sit there waiting to appear a week later, they take months and sometimes years to develop whilst some have to go on a long tour to try and recoup their finances.”
The pantomime is the one production which has survived the pandemic across many theatres.
Last year saw 122 pantomimes take place in 163 venues across the UK according to latest figures from the British Theatre Guide.
But the Theatre Royal were unable to produce a panto because of a lack of funding.
The cities other major theatre succeeded despite having their plans of performing in front of an in-person audience, scuppered when Nottingham was placed in tier 3 restrictions.
They recorded a performance of Cinderella before releasing it online with latest figures suggesting it was watched by circa 11,500 households (excluding school viewings.)
Martin Berry, 40, is the Playhouse’s head of participation and is pleased with their panto figures.
He said: “We smashed our target although admittedly those targets were slightly conservative because we’ve not done this before.”
During half-term they will be running Family Fest – a workshop for children which includes drama, dance and a ‘radio play in a day.’
He added: “We’ve learned a lot about making creative media on platforms like Zoom, so the quality of what we do will be really fab and we’ve got some brilliant people making it.”
Despite all the challenges he and everyone else involved in theatre have experienced over the past year, Peter is optimistic about the future.
He said: “Theatres will continue even though they will have to adapt and change – they will have a thriving future.”