A defiant Andrew Lloyd Webber has fired a warning shot at Boris Johnson, telling the prime minister he will open his theatres on 21 June regardless of what Covid regulations are in place.
The impresario said he is prepared to be arrested if police intervene, declaring that his new production of Cinderella will go ahead “come hell or high water”.
Mr Lloyd Webber’s comments to the Daily Telegraph come after reports that England’s 21 June unlocking date – when theatres are allowed to reopen – will be delayed for several more weeks.
The Cats creator, who quit as a Tory peer in 2017, told the paper he may have to sell his six West End venues if the government does not press ahead with relaxing restrictions in just under two weeks’ time.
Mr Lloyd Webber, whose net worth the Sunday Times Rich list put at £525m for 2021, said he has already had to remortgage his London home.
The pandemic has had a catastrophic financial impact on the theatre industry and many have remained closed despite the ease in Covid-19 restrictions as it is not financially viable for them to open with reduced capacities.
Mr Lloyd Webber is preparing for a production of Cinderella, which is scheduled to open for previews on 25 June ahead of its world premiere in July.
“We are going to open, come hell or high water,” he told the Telegraph.
Asked what he would do if Boris Johnson postponed lifting lockdown, he said: “We will say: ‘come to the theatre and arrest us.”‘
The 21 June “freedom day” is in doubt due to concerns over the impact of the Delta variant, first identified in India.
But the composer said the scientific evidence shows theatres are “completely safe” and do not cause outbreaks.
He added: “If the government ignore their own science, we have the mother of all legal cases against them. If Cinderella couldn’t open, we’d go, ‘Look, either we go to law about it or you’ll have to compensate us.”‘
This is not the first time Mr Lloyd Webber, 73, has criticised those calling for a delay in reopening.
Last week he told the Daily Mail he may take legal action if his theatres are not allowed to welcome back crowds at full capacity.