More than 150 jobs are at risk at the Royal Shakespeare Company, which has not been able to open its theatres since March because of the coronavirus.
The charity opened a consultation with staff yesterday, and said that it hopes to limit compulsory redundancies to below 90, through combining existing posts and people choosing voluntary redundancy.
The RSC is one of the 100 largest charities in the country with an income of £86m last year, and unrestricted reserves worth £36m. It employs around 1,200 people.
The charity said that it plans to reopen one of its three theatres, the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, in December, with reduced capacity to allow social distancing.
The Swan Theatre and The Other Place will both remain closed.
‘A difficult day’
Gregory Doran, artistic director at the RSC, said: “We want to welcome our audiences back, to reopen again and to help our regional and wider economy rebuild itself, bringing people back into our towns and cities.
“Our financial position and uncertainty around future restrictions means that our immediate focus will be on our largest theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.
“We continue to face the challenges of the ongoing pandemic and today was a difficult day as we began formal consultation about potential redundancies with our fantastic staff.
“We will continue to respond creatively to the ongoing pandemic and look forward to the moment when we can reopen our doors with full-scale productions to celebrate all that is brilliant about live theatre.”
Consulting for the next two months
Catherine Mallyon, executive director at the RSC, said: “We remain positive that live theatre will be back in our communities, doing what it does best, entertaining audiences and bringing joy to so many people.
“These are incredibly difficult times for everyone, and for the theatre community they are especially tough.
“Our live performance sector is experiencing one of the highest levels of loss of work anywhere. The personal impact of this is often devastating; the loss of skilled and talented people permanently from our sector a very real worry for the future; and the impact on the nation’s economy immense.”
The RSC confirmed that staff will be told the outcome of the consultation at the end of November.
Leading figures in the arts have previously warned about the impact of coronavirus on theatres.
In September the composer Andrew Lloyd-Webber said that he did not think “commercial theatre will survive” without more financial help from the government.
Last week, the Octagon Theatre in Bolton said that it had lost over £1m after closing during the pandemic. The Theatre Royal in Winchester raised more than £120,000 in donations over the summer to keep its doors open.
A fundraising scheme run by the Theatre Trust, which will distribute donations to small theatres across the UK, has raised £960,000.
Chancellor: The creative sector will have to adjust
The announcement from the RSC came on the same day that chancellor Rishi Sunak said professionals in the arts would have “to adapt and adjust” to the impact of the pandemic.
Asked about the future for people working at arts charities and other organisations in the creative sector, Sunak said: “I can't pretend that everyone can do exactly the same job that they were doing at the beginning of this crisis.”
The chancellor said that the government had made over £1.5bn available to the creative industries during the crisis.