A walk through London’s dark theatres in the Time of Pandemic

Published: 6 July 2020
Reporter: David Chadderton

From The Dark Theatres Project Credit: Nina Dunn
From The Dark Theatres Project Credit: Nina Dunn
From The Dark Theatres Project Credit: Nina Dunn

Video designer Nina Dunn has photographed the empty interiors of some of the West End’s locked-down theatres for her The Dark Theatres Project that creates "a snapshot of an industry in stasis."

The project will raise money for industry charities including BackUp, The Theatrical Guild, The Theatres Trust and Acting for Others. Anyone wishing to donate to the scheme will receive a limited edition print of one of her photos.

Dunn explained, "this is a moment in history—there have been no enforced closures in theatre in my lifetime. Theatres even managed to remain open during the First World War—and to an extent during the Second World War—so this is a shocking and devastating event for those of us who work in and for theatres.

"Theatre buildings desperately need people to maintain and populate them. These are old buildings that need constant upkeep and thrive on their audiences. For the people who usually inhabit them, it feels like theatre is slowly being forgotten and that somehow both the buildings and the teams of craftspeople could quietly start to decay and slip away.”

Dunn has so far visited four West End venues: the Duke of York's, Ambassadors Theatre, the Savoy Theatre and the Playhouse Theatre. She said, "props were laid out on tables as if ready to go for the next evening's performance. A prop tea tray in the Duke of York's looked as though all it needed was picking up. I was struck by the sad, empty beauty of these places. For the people used to working in theatre every day, these are very personal spaces. For many theatre people, whether they work backstage or on the stage, they are not just buildings to go to for work, they are second homes."

The photos will be collated into a book. Prints and pre-orders of the book are available now.