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july 5 2018

SINCE 1880

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Haulage firm is latest casualty of pulled tours

‘A unique light has gone out in musical theatre’

i s l e r

H e

G r e g

Matthew Hemley

A theatre haulage company has gone into liquidation blaming cash-flow problems caused by a string of collapsed musical tours, including Thoroughly Modern Millie.

The Wicked Company’s closure reflects the wider impact of collapsed tours, with the company’s managing director Kevin Thwaites telling The Stage he may be declared personally bankrupt as a result. His staff of 10 have all been made redundant.

The Wicked Company has been providing haulage services for seven years, but has announced its closure following a “couple of painful tour curtailments” in the past 12 months, including the recently collapsed tour of Thoroughly Modern Millie.The show was pulled halfway through its run, leaving money owed to cast and crew.

Thwaites said he was not “pointing the finger” at Thoroughly Modern Millie, but that the show’s cancellation had been the “final straw” for the company.

Wicked had also provided transport for other collapsed tours including Wonderland, which closed early in 2017, and Copacabana, in 2015.

Thwaites has called for a change in the law to prevent production companies from restarting under another name if they close, leaving money owed to creditors.

“These producers set up a limited company to protect their business and nobody else,” he said, adding: “Something needs to be done to stop it.”

He added that new companies set up to produce tours were difficult to take insurance out against and claimed that some producers knowingly took tours on the road without the full funding required, using suppliers as “unofficial investors”.

“They get investors to get them started and then they use suppliers as a secondary investor or creditor,” he said.

Gillian Lynne, 1926-2018

Thwaites revealed that, when cash flow started to be an issue, he approached creditors about initiating a Company Voluntary Arrangement, to pay them money over a fixed time, so that the Wicked Company could remain solvent.

However, when Millie collapsed, he said the company knew it would not be able to fulfil the requirements of a CVA and he was forced to liquidate it.

Matthew Hemley

Following the appointment, the liquidators are seeking to sell all assets to achieve the best possible outcome for creditors. Theatreland bids farewell to Gillian Lynne

Thwaites said he had taken out loans to pay staff as a result of the collapsed tours, which he now had to pay off.

He claimed his company’s workload had been picked up by other hauliers, so as not to leave customers stranded.

Martyn Pullin and Iain Townsend, at FRP Advisory LLP, have been appointed joint liquidators of the Wicked Company.

Pullin said: “Every effort was made to restructure the Wicked Company. However, its cash position unfortunately meant that the only remaining option was to close the business. Our focus is now on supporting all of those affected during this difficult time.”

Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh have led tributes to director and choreographer Gillian Lynne, who died aged 92 on July 1. She choreographed shows including Cats, The Phantom of the Opera, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Aspects of Love.

Following her death, announced on Twitter by her actor husband Peter Land, theatres across the West End dimmed their lights in her honour on July 2.

Land said he was “heartbroken” to write that his “dearest wife and friend and love for 40 years” had passed away at the Princess Grace Hospital in London.

“She leaves behind a huge legacy and is adored by many,” he said.

Responding to the news, Lloyd Webber said “three generations” of the British musical were in her debt, while Mackintosh said a “unique light has gone out in musical theatre”.

Mackintosh added: “Inspirational and indefatigable, wickedly funny and fabulously sexy, Gillie’s brilliantly inventive talents over the decades have illuminated the lives of all those who have had the luck to work with her, as well as the audiences who have witnessed her magic.

“We will all miss her beyond words, but I have no doubt she already has the angels rehearsing the Jellicle Ball up there in the Heaviside Layer! God bless her. She is truly unforgettable.”

Others to pay tribute included Matthew Bourne, who said Lynne had “supported and inspired” him from the beginning.

Society of London Theatre chief executive Julian Bird said Lynne’s contribution to theatre was “inestimable”. He added: “We are proud to celebrate her extraordinary legacy in the West End.”

Gillian Lynne obituary, p43

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Kate Godfrey RSC’s voice guru talks Ciceronian techniques Page 40

Grandes dames Dench, Smith, Plowright and Atkins on film Page 42 Want a new job? Three pages of vacancies in the theatre sector Pages 29-31

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