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The lifting of restrictions in England was repeatedly hailed as “Freedom Day” by those inside the government – and in the live performance industry.

For the first time for the best part of 18 months, English theatres, gig venues and clubs could pack people into their rooms with no legal requirement for them to wear masks or socially distance.

But the chaos set in almost immediately – with a day of celebration for some becoming a day of confusion and heartbreak for others.

Cinderella. Pic: Tristram Kenton
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Cinderella, played by Carrie Hope Fletcher, will not be going to the ball – yet. Pic: Tristram Kenton

Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber, one of the biggest proponents of getting theatres open, had to shutter his brand new show Cinderella, after just one case of coronavirus in the 35-strong cast last weekend.

The “pingdemic” had taken down the West End’s biggest impresario before he had chance to formally show off his new multimillion pound body of work.

It was of course a feat (and a risk) in itself to debut a big musical during a global health crisis and in an impassioned news conference at his theatre, Lord Lloyd Webber laid the blame at the front door of Number 10, saying the current system of isolation has brought his beloved industry “to its knees”.

Speaking to Sky News on Thursday, the peer said that he believes that vaccine passports could be the future of trying to solve this problem and testing will become common place in his theatres – but that may not solve the issue of isolating casts.

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Vaccine passports for theatres ‘inevitable’

After falling through the trap door, Cinderella will continue previews on the 18 August before opening fully on 25 August – likely in the hope that COVID-19 cases start to decrease across the country and lessen the threat for his show.

But it wasn’t just Lord Lloyd Webber who has been affected by the dreaded COVID app alerts.

Kenneth Branagh’s production of The Browning Version at the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith was shelved after an “increasing number of COVID-enforced absences” during rehearsals, meaning the mixture of self-isolating individuals and those who caught the virus meant it was left with no time to get the show on stage.

And on Friday, the Young Vic put out a statement saying “We’ve been pinged”, announcing that its first preview of Changing Destiny had been pushed back until the following week due to isolation requirements.

However, Hairspray, which had to pause for more than a week after cast members were forced to isolate, has employed a clever tactic to avoid any more disruption – hiring more staff.

The ’60s musical has taken on a new set of cast members who will not head to the theatre unless they’re needed, meaning if one member of the team tests positive and takes out everyone else – the show can still run with its backup, yet still very talented, cast.

It wasn’t just the West End that had its COVID bubble burst either – the touring production of the ever-popular Six had to skip its stop in Hull when some cast members tested positive, forcing the entire company into isolation.

Even the local theatre in Babbacombe in Devon had to cancel a week of shows, after the cast of its summer show were told to isolate.

TV and film productions that were shooting in various parts of the UK were also halted last week with Netflix’s Bridgerton shutting down filming for its second season for the second time, while the streamer’s version of Matilda The Musical also had to partially pause its project – both because of COVID and self-isolation.

And even the Targaryens couldn’t avoid the pandemic, with HBO’s Game Of Thrones spin-off House Of The Dragon also shutting down for a few days after a positive test.

But for some there was elation at the new lack of restrictions.

The Royal Albert Hall burst back to life - but its auditorium was not completely full
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The Royal Albert Hall burst back to life – but its auditorium was not completely full

A number of venues hailed their new-found freedom by, cautiously, opening their auditoriums to as many people as possible – with plenty of West End and local productions finding their way on stage.

At the Royal Albert Hall on Wednesday, there was an explosion of song and dance as nearly 200 people got on stage to take part in a Best Of The West End show – featuring the likes of West End giants Mica Paris, John Owen Jones and Ben Forster.

I was lucky enough to be invited to watch and while the show was exciting and, in some parts, emotional, the arena wasn’t full – a reminder that while restrictions have been legally lifted, not everyone is rushing back to venues.

With only a small let-up in the rise in cases towards the end of the week, it could still be some time before the sector finds its feet – and we could still see more parts of the industry be forced into the wings.

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Sir Elton John to headline Glastonbury in last UK gig of farewell tour after 52 years on the road

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Sir Elton John to headline Glastonbury in last UK gig of farewell tour after 52 years on the road

Sir Elton John is to headline at next year’s Glastonbury Festival in his final ever gig in the UK on what has been billed as his farewell tour after more than 50 years on the road.

The Rocket Man singer will play the Pyramid Stage on the last night of the popular, sold-out event at Worthy Farm in Somerset, which runs from 21-25 June 2023.

Sir Elton said he “couldn’t be more excited” to be appearing at Glastonbury 2023.

Glastonbury co-organiser Emily Eavis has promised it will be “the mother of all send offs”.

The veteran megastar has been performing around the world as part of his marathon Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour which began in September 2018 before it was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said: “As the end of my Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour comes into view, there is no more fitting way to say goodbye to my British fans.

“They have been beyond brilliant, and have supported me through all the highs and lows of my career.

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“Every week I speak to new artists on my radio show and Glastonbury is often cited as a pivotal moment in launching their careers – the festival’s genuine, enthusiastic support for the best emerging talent is something I’ve long admired.

“I’ve been talking to Emily Eavis about it over the last few weeks and I can’t wait to embrace the spirit of the greatest festival in the world. It’s going to be incredibly emotional.”

Ms Eavis said: “It gives me enormous pleasure to let you know that the one and only Elton John will be making his first ever Glastonbury appearance, headlining the Pyramid Stage on the Sunday night next year.

“This will be the final UK show of Elton’s last ever tour, so we will be closing the festival and marking this huge moment in both of our histories with the mother of all send offs.

“We are so very happy to finally bring the Rocket Man to Worthy Farm.”

The veteran singer’s 300-plus date worldwide run is due to conclude next summer and will mark his retirement from touring after 52 years.

So far it has seen him perform across Europe with shows in Milan, Paris and Frankfurt, and he also recently ended the North American part of the tour at the Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

The final leg will include dates in Australia, New Zealand and European shows next year.

Throughout the tour, the megastar has treated fans to elaborate shows filled with extravagant costumes, spectacular visuals and classics from his catalogue including Tiny Dancer, Rocket Man, Your Song and hit recent number one single Cold Heart, which was a collaboration with pop star Dua Lipa.

In 2018, he announced his farewell world tour after deciding to bow out of live performing to spend more time with his two children.

The singer has had a glittering career that has seen him release a hit single in every decade since the 1970s, and notch up worldwide record sales of 300 million.

This year at Glastonbury Billie Eilish, Sir Paul McCartney and Kendrick Lamar headlined, with Diana Ross performing in the traditional Sunday Legends slot.

Sir Paul’s Saturday headline slot on the Pyramid Stage saw the former Beatle become the festival’s oldest solo headliner, performing a week after he celebrated his 80th birthday.

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Indiana Jones And The Dial Of Destiny: First trailer revealed as Harrison Ford returns for fifth film

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Indiana Jones And The Dial Of Destiny: First trailer revealed as Harrison Ford returns for fifth film

The first trailer has been released for the new Indiana Jones movie – with the title now revealed as The Dial Of Destiny.

Harrison Ford is back at age 80 as the famous whip-cracking archaeologist, more than 40 years after first playing the character.

Chase sequences, Nazi villains, a huge rolling boulder, and Ford riding a galloping horse through New York City all feature in the clip.

Indy‘s friend Sallah, played by Welsh actor John Rhys-Davies, is also back.

He’s heard telling the adventurer: “I miss the sea. I miss waking up every morning wondering what wonderful adventure the new day will bring to us.”

Ford’s character reminisces: “I don’t believe in magic, but a few times in my life I’ve seen things, things I can’t explain.

“And I’ve come to believe it’s not so much what you believe, it’s how hard you believe it.”

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The actor is ‘de-aged’ in many of the sequences and looks similar to how he appeared in the previous films.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge also shows up in the trailer as his goddaughter, while Mads Mikkelsen and Antonio Banderas are the other big names involved.

The Dial Of Destiny is due to be released on 30 June and is directed by James Mangold, the filmmaker behind Le Mans 66, Logan and Johnny Cash biopic Walk The Line.

Indiana Jones, along with Han Solo, are the two roles that have defined Ford’s career – and fans will be hoping for a better movie than the last reboot.

Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull (2008) was widely regarded as a disappointment despite being directed by Steven Spielberg, who did the original trilogy.

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Harry and Meghan’s documentary series trailer released by Netflix

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Harry and Meghan's documentary series trailer released by Netflix

The trailer for Harry and Meghan’s new documentary series has been released.

The one-minute preview, released by Netflix, features previously unseen black and white photographs of the couple set to music.

They are heard being asked “Why did you want to make this documentary?” to which Harry replies: “No one sees what’s happening behind closed doors.”

He adds: “I had to do everything I could to protect my family” before Meghan is seen wiping away tears.

The trailer ends with Meghan saying: “When the stakes are this high, doesn’t it make more sense to hear our story from us?”

Images of William and Kate with Harry and Meghan at the Commonwealth Day service in 2020, the Sussexes’ final public appearance as senior working royals, feature among the images.

There are also joyful pictures of the couple kissing while Meghan sits on a kitchen counter, as newlyweds dancing at their wedding, cuddling in a photobooth, and Meghan cradling her baby bump.

But the duchess is also pictured in sadder moments, wiping away tears and sitting with her hands covering her face.

Meghan and Harry. Pic: Netflix
Image:
Meghan and Harry. Pic: Netflix

Netflix describes the documentary, titled Harry & Meghan, as a “global event” and says it is “coming soon” – reports say it will land on 8 December.

It says the show “explores the clandestine days of their early courtship and the challenges that led to them feeling forced to step back from their full-time roles in the institution”.

It features commentary from friends, family and royal historians.

It adds: “The series does more than illuminate one couple’s love story, it paints a picture of our world and how we treat each other.”

The director, Liz Garbus, is a two-time Academy Award-nominated and Emmy-winning director.

Harry and Meghan signed lucrative deals – thought to be worth well over £100m- with Netflix and Spotify after quitting the monarchy and moving to the US.

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