The West End started its fight back on Monday night when its longest running show opened to a socially distanced audience for the first time in months.
Adam Spiegel , the producer of the classic whodunnit The Mousetrap, said it sent a signal the West End was open for business.
Speaking to the audience from the stage of the St Martins Theatre, he said: “We punch above our weight in theatre and now as an industry we can start to punch again”.
The show, written by Agatha Christie, premiered in 1952 and has been staged more than 28,000 times but Spiegel said last night’s performance was “a bit different”.
He said: “It’s thrilling for the Mousetrap to be leading the way on this but mostly it’s thrilling because it means that the West End is open and that’s such an important ingredient in London life and to have it back and open for business is just so important for the whole city.”
The show played to an audience of just over 200 – about half the usual capacity of St Martin’s Theatre – with masks worn throughout the show by theatregoers who were temperature tested before entry and sat in socially-distanced rows.
He said: “There are changes within the theatre that have had to be made, we’ve taken out some of the rows in the stalls in order to space the rows more effectively so it’s a bit like going in a business class seat now you can sit there and no one can complain about having enough leg room.
“We’ve got two casts, two star casts actually, who alternate the performances and if one of those casts were to have a positive Covid test then the other cast would automatically step in so there’s a bit of a safety net, but I think beyond the fact you’ll have your temperature taken and you’ll sit in a fancy seat it’s going to the theatre.”
He said performing to restricted numbers was “unsustainable for a long time” but worth it as “a way of saying the West End is open for business”.
He added: “There has been lots of false starts for the industry and this feels like we can confidently push on from this territory and it feels like it’s here for good.”