Gemma Arterton play resumes in West End after Covid-related cancellation

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The West End play Walden, starring Gemma Arterton, is to resume performances after a possible Covid safety risk led to the last-minute cancellation of Tuesday night’s show.

Just over 10 minutes before the curtain went up at the Harold Pinter theatre in London, Sonia Friedman Productions tweeted an apology that the performance would be cancelled and that ticket holders would be contacted to arrange an exchange or refund.

A statement released on Wednesday said: “Last night, information was received at 6.45pm that a member of the production had potentially been exposed to the virus whilst not at the theatre, and on the advice of the production’s Covid consultants the performance was cancelled.” Following tests and a confirmation that there had been no exposure to the virus by the team member, the Walden cast and crew are “safe and well” and “all remain negative for Covid”. The production thanked the audience for their patience and support.

The statement stressed that since rehearsals began for Walden, all protocols and guidelines have been strictly adhered to, with cast and crew members tested regularly for Covid, and that health and safety for the production’s team and for audiences remains their priority.

Walden, written by the American playwright Amy Berryman, is about the relationship between a Nasa botanist, her sister and a climate activist. Directed by Ian Rickson, it is the opening production in the Re:Emerge season season of West End plays that producer Sonia Friedman has described as “bold, new work for a bold, new world as we begin to build back to the full reopening of British theatre”. The season continues with Yasmin Joseph’s play J’Ouvert, set during the Notting Hill carnival, and Anna X, written by Joseph Charlton and inspired by the case of Anna Sorokin, the socialite who was found guilty of grand larceny after posing as an heiress.

Theatres in England were allowed to reopen from 17 May after months of closure. Neil Constable, CEO of Shakespeare’s Globe, said in a statement that more than 3,000 people have visited the Globe since it reopened. “All our companies and production staff on and offstage are socially distancing at two metres and we feel confident that we would not be put in that very difficult situation of cancelling a performance. We of course continue to actively test colleagues, last week completing 342 lateral flow tests. We have robust risk assessments for all our activities and are continuing to work and rehearse outdoors … Theatre is safe to return to and London is opening up ready for summer.”

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