Timothée Chalamet’s West End debut cancelled after two years of postponements

<span>Photograph: Matt Baron/Rex/Shutterstock</span>
Photograph: Matt Baron/Rex/Shutterstock

The Old Vic theatre says its much-anticipated production of 4000 Miles, co-starring Eileen Atkins, will no longer go ahead

It was one of London’s hottest theatre tickets for 2020: a Pulitzer-nominated play with the enticing pairing of actors Timothée Chalamet and Eileen Atkins. But just over two years after Amy Herzog’s drama 4000 Miles had been scheduled to have its first performance at the Old Vic, the long-postponed production has finally been cancelled.

A message from Chalamet, Atkins and the Old Vic’s artistic director, Matthew Warchus, was emailed to ticket bookers on Thursday morning. “Despite an enormous amount of effort from all involved, we have now sadly and reluctantly concluded that we are unable to reschedule the show at a time possible for everyone involved,” it stated.

The postponement of 4000 Miles – one of the top-selling shows to be scheduled at the Old Vic, where Chalamet would have made his London stage debut – was first announced on 18 March 2020. That day the Old Vic temporarily closed its doors in light of the government’s Covid-19 advice to avoid going to theatres. The following month, the theatre stated that work was continuing on a daily basis to arrange a new date for the production, which was fully rehearsed at the point the lockdown started.

Thursday’s statement said that “despite two years of trying hard to make it work”, it has proved impossible. It described the Old Vic as on “a long and precarious road to recovery and it urgently needs all the financial support it can get”. Ticket bookers would be playing a significant part in supporting the theatre’s survival if the ticket cost was donated rather than refunded, it added.

A similar point was made to those who had tickets for the Old Vic’s Endgame, starring Daniel Radcliffe and Alan Cumming, when it closed two weeks early in March 2020. Then, the theatre stated that offering a full refund to customers would be “financially devastating”.

It is a sign that, more than two years after theatres were first plunged into the coronavirus crisis, the situation for many venues is still dire. The Old Vic is a charity that receives no government funding and relies entirely on ticket sales, sponsorship and donations. In May 2020, Warchus told the Guardian that it was in a “seriously perilous” financial situation and that its reserve funds would last “a small number of months”. In October 2020 it was announced that the theatre would receive a £3m grant from the government’s £1.57bn culture recovery fund.

Chalamet is one of today’s most in-demand film actors: he has reunited with Call Me By Your Name director Luca Guadagnino for Bones and All; he plays Willy Wonka in an upcoming version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; and he is starring in a sequel to Dune.

Eileen Atkins’ acclaimed memoir, Will She Do?, was published last autumn, when she told the Observer she would be appearing in a new series of Doc Martin for ITV and a film in which Derek Jacobi will play George Bernard Shaw, and she will play his wife, Charlotte.