Claire Foy and Matt Smith to reunite in empty theatre

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Claire Foy and Matt SmithImage copyright
Helen Maybanks

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Claire Foy and Matt Smith first appeared in Lungs at the Old Vic in 2019

Claire Foy and Matt Smith will reunite in a socially-distanced play to be streamed from an empty Old Vic theatre.

The pair co-starred in Netflix’s The Crown before appearing together in Lungs at the London venue last year.

They will reprise their roles as the couple in Duncan MacMillan’s play for several live performances next month.

Viewers will be asked to pay between £10-£65 to watch online. The Old Vic has warned it is in a “seriously perilous” financial position.

Like all theatres, it has been shut since the lockdown began in mid-March. However, it is not eligible for Arts Council England’s £160m emergency relief fund.

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The Old Vic has the words “We’ll be back” on the front of its building

“Significant support is urgently needed if we are to emerge from this crisis still able to deliver exciting entertainment and social benefit,” the theatre said in a statement.

The revival of Lungs will launch the famous theatre’s Old Vic: In Camera series, which will feature other well-known actors in rehearsed play-readings – all streamed online.

“This series is both an exciting creative experiment and also crucial in igniting the box office now all our usual channels of revenue have been entirely wiped out and we fight to preserve this beloved theatre for our audiences,” the statement said.

Each performance of Lungs will be limited to 1,000 viewers – mimicking the venue’s actual capacity.

Virtual theatre-goers will select a seat and ticket price as normal, but will in reality all have the same view.

Many theatre companies have released shows online in recent months – but they were either recorded before lockdown, or have been filmed in actors’ homes, rather than in the empty venues themselves.

Image copyright
Helen Maybanks

Entertainment venues could potentially reopen to audiences from 4 July at the earliest, according to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s three-stage plan to reopen the country.

But that date rests on a lot of things, not least whether it will be financially viable to reopen if social distancing is still in place.

Sir Cameron Mackintosh recently told the BBC that West End and Broadway theatres are unlikely to be able to stage musicals until early next year.

On Wednesday, Sir Cameron and Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s planned 14-month tour of The Phantom of the Opera – which was forced to shut after its opening night in Leicester in March – was called off completely.

A statement said: “The great uncertainty around the duration of social distancing requirements and the perilous financial situation in which many regional theatres find themselves have conspired to make re-routing an entire major tour like Phantom impossible for some time as so many existing tours are needing to reschedule.”

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