Where are they now? Andrew Hilton – Music Director

We’re having to move out of our flat. It’s hard because technically I have no income. I’ve go two tours promised but are they going to happen? Certainly not in March / April when they were supposed to.

I remember when we spoke last, we were still hoping to finish the run at the Savoy… this time last year I would have thought it would be impossible to be closed for so long.

Now if someone said me me I had a definite job in August I’d go “Wow! That’s fantastic!”. 

Back in the summer there was supposed to be a big gap between the end of the Savoy and my next job – something like 6 weeks – and I thought “How will I cope without income for 6 months? How will I manage?” and here we are nearly a year later – still alive, still eating. Still not dead. 

I had a show that was postposed from last August to this August and now it’s been cancelled again. They had West End lined up and everything. They are just doing a 2 week workshop in April. 

I nearly did a panto. I had five pantos planned and this wasn’t even one of those: I got a call half way through November asking me if I was interested. It was one of the ones that was National Lottery sponsored. It was written and ready to be rehearsed and because Liverpool had gone down a Tier, they were convinced that they would too. I got to Manchester checked in to my hotel, went out to get food and the next morning, the tiers didn’t change so I got back on a train and came home again. I wasn’t even there 24 hours. It was weird walking along the streets because all the restaurants were getting fresh deliveries that morning assuming that they would be opening again. Such a waste.

I did go and see some shows: I went to see Brian (Connley) in The Christmas Carol and Cinderella and another concert and they were all very safe, very orderly. Good thing it wasn’t raining because you always had to queue up outside. In the Theatres we felt very safe, very secure. There waslots of free spaces around us and even in the smallest venue they were plastic screens. We really tried our best in the Theatre to make it safe.

The show at the Dominion didn’t finish their run – they got maybe four or five shows. It’s a shame they didn’t plan to stream it but you’re not going to make back you money by streaming. I also don’t understand people that limit tickets for streaming. I mean surely if you wanna sell a million tickets you sell a million and if any of everyone’s on a percentage or royalties then it’s better that way anyway. 

I did a drama school show at the Bridewell. The day Tier 4 came was our last night. I had all the crew from the 9 to 5 band in it and my colleague, Mark Crossland (international superstar that he is) playing keys 3 in this drama school show! It wasn’t big money but people were desperate to work. It sounded amazing of course! People have got to keep their muscles going. I shocked myself over the summer: I was asked to do one of those online concerts by Carrie Hope Fletcher (I’ve worked with her a few times). She sent me the music and I hadn’t played the piano for five months and I thought “I’m not match fit. I can’t go and do this” so I gave it to another friend of mine and then made a conscious effort to start playing the piano again. Of course by the time the drama school project came in I was absolutely fine. It took me a week to get back up and running. It’s not surprising that I had become rusty. I mean we don’t ever stop work usually. I used to get up in the morning, go to play at auditions for one show then rehearse another one in the afternoon, grab some food on the way to do 9 to 5 at the Savoy then go to the pub. Now I do a two hour zoom class one of the drama schools and I feel like I need a nap. 

I find on Twitter and Instagram with a community can be very negative and quick to judge. I’ve had to come off social media a few times just to give my head a break you know. Recently there was a witch hunt with a theatre that said they were going to open – not to the public but to do something behind closed doors – and people said “oh you’re breaking the law you shouldn’t be doing this” and so eventually they didn’t open. You never know: they might have been about to lose their premises and needed to make some cash plus they had been told what they were doing was legal by the council so it’s a shame that people were all so quick to pounce. 

As far as finances go, I spent all my tax savings so when I get my tax bill at the end of the month I can’t pay it because I’ve had to live off the money.

I wasn’t eligible for any grants. I applied for universal credit but I had too much in my tax account so once that was spent I finally became eligible but I had to first spend my savings. Well, they weren’t my savings they were for tax. I was spending money I would owe to the government in order to survive. At least I’ve had that: some people have had absolutely nothing. No help at all. I’m worried now because I’ve got this far but there isn’t anything left and we aren’t going in to rehearsals on March 15th, let’s be honest. I could’ve probably got to March 15th.

I’m coping though. We all have dark days don’t we? This lockdown is way harder than the first one. The weather was gorgeous we were out in the garden having cocktails it felt like it was short term and we’d be back at work soon. And then the one before Christmas was so short plus we had Christmas coming up: it was festive and it felt lovely. Now it’s just January blues times 100. But I get up earlier, I’m eating healthier. Max (the dog) gets very long walks. I’m also packing now for the move, bagging up some things for the charity shops. I might have to sell some of it. There are a few things I found that still have labels on that I’d never worn: a £90 pair of jeans that don’t fit me now that I’ve lost weight – I’d never dream of spending £90 on jeans right now. 

I think the hard day will be 16th of March – the anniversary of the day we closed.

We will still be in lockdown at that point – maybe not full lockdown but it won’t be back to normal – and that year marker’s going to be tough. I don’t think people believe that theatre shows will happen enough to buy tickets yet either: they won’t buy tickets until it’s actually happening because it’s just not right now: it’s not a fact any more. There’s a film called ‘Songbird’ and…just don’t watch it. Basically we’re in 2023 and we’re still in lockdown and no-one can go out without breathing apparatus. I had to switch it off. It was just too possible.

Some of my business friends say that people are considering not going ever going back to big offices. I mean when people can work from home why would companies do that when they can have workers spend their own money on electricity and water. For us it just doesn’t work: we’ve tried to do early stage rehearsals for a few things online but it just doesn’t work: you can’t sing together. Zoom does not work for theatre.

I was thinking about starting a campaign to switch all the marquee lights off outside the theatres because when everything else was open – the cafes and bars during eat out to help out – I heard lots of people saying “Oh look, all the theatres are open” and of tourists were saying “Oh we should book to go and see that” because it looked like it was open but it wasn’t. 

When we got that 1.57 billion I had loads of family who you think would know better saying “oh so you’ll be fine then – how much would you get?”. They thought all the musicians and actors were going to get a little cheque and I mean none of us has really got any of it – barely even the theatres.

I don’t think the British public really get it so I think we need to raise awareness about the fact that theatres certainly aren’t safe financially. 

What do I hope for when we come out of this? If you ask me on a down day I’d probably say “Is theatre going to coming back at all?”. If you’d asked me yesterday I would have said “We won’t have big audiences, we’ll just have streams and one-off concerts” but today I’m feeling a bit more positive: theatre will have to come back. You work and strive towards Broadway and the West End – I toured for many years and probably will again this year – but we all aim for this pinnacle of British Theatre that was world-famous. We were there doing it and I want to go back to doing it. I want it to still exist.

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