Melbourne Theatre Company announced today that its production of As You Like It, due to open this September, will be postponed until 2021.

The decision follows the re-introduction of stage 3 restrictions in Melbourne.

MTC Artistic Director & CEO Brett Sheehy AO said, ‘Until recently we were optimistic about our return in September, but with the worsening situation in Melbourne there was no other option for us. The health and wellbeing of our community is paramount and we could not proceed with confidence that rehearsals or performances of As You Like It could be realised safely for our actors, creatives, staff and audiences.

‘Simply put, we are devastated. This production was the beacon at the end of the tunnel for us – a marvellous, uplifting show to mark our return to stage. However, we now look forward to presenting Simon Phillips’ production of As You Like It in 2021.’

To date, nine of MTC’s twelve 2020 productions have been impacted by this crisis equating to the loss of 157 jobs for actors, creatives, makers and crew.

MTC Executive Director & Co-CEO Virginia Lovett said, ‘In March we made the pre-emptive but heartbreaking decision to shut down for six months in order to triage the effect of this crisis and stabilise the Company. The new restrictions have been a real setback for our recovery. This additional cancellation means the Company is facing an $11 million box office shortfall along with prolonged hardship for our staff and artists.

‘What we’re experiencing in the arts sector is shattering. The arts and cultural industry is part of Victoria’s DNA – MTC plays a vital role within it not only as a place of employment but in Melbourne’s night time, tourism and hospitality economies.

‘Any one show is the tip of the iceberg of the industry below that makes it happen. Pre-COVID MTC employed over 500 people a year including actors, directors, lighting designers, set & costume designers, stage managers, production staff, welders, carpenters, prop makers, costumiers, wigmakers, scenic artists, technicians and administration teams. Now, we are operating on skeleton staff.

‘The road to recovery will be long but if we cannot perform to non-social distanced audiences in the near future, it’s going to be even longer. There are very real challenges ahead but what the sector needs most in the short term is an extension of JobKeeper to assist us through this period.’

Both Mr Sheehy and Ms Lovett thanked the Company’s supporters, its subscribers and donors during this time for their outpouring of support and generosity.

‘Art brings people together in good times and bad. MTC is very much part of many Melburnians’ theatre-going life – whether they attend with their school or as a long term subscriber with old friends. We are extremely fortunate to have a community that highly values not only the work MTC produces but the entire sector,’ they said.

Melbourne Theatre Company has two further productions scheduled to take place later this year – Girls & Boys and Sunshine Super Girl. A decision about these shows will be made in the coming months pending government restrictions and public health guidelines.

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