Following the news that theatres can reopen from 1 August, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre has announced you can buy tickets for Jesus Christ Superstar from next week. Let’s take a look at what social distancing at theatres will actually look like.
The performing arts have taken a serious hit during the coronavirus pandemic. While pubs, restaurants and cinemas continue to reopen across the UK, theatres and performance spaces have been left to struggle in the dark.
The industry has suffered such a significant financial blow that Dame Judi Dench said she can’t imagine the theatres she used to perform in reopening in her lifetime. More comedians, actors and dancers have also spoken out about the threat to the future of performing arts. Just yesterday (17 July), Dame Darcy Bussell told The Telegraph that “dancers desperately need to get back to their studios”.
But now, there is a glimmer of hope, as prime minister Boris Johnson has announced plans to get live performance spaces back in action this summer.
Johnson said the government has been working with the sector on pilots of performances with socially distanced audiences in theatres and music venues. This means that indoor performances with socially distanced audiences can take place in England from the start of August.
Secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport also tweeted: “From 1 August socially distanced audiences can return for indoor performances in theatres, music halls and other venues. This builds on pilots with @londonsymphony and others. So pleased to make progress to Stage four of our road map for culture.”
According to the government’s official guidelines, social distancing in theatres will look like this:
- Reduced venue capacity and limited ticket sales to ensure social distancing can be maintained.
- Tickets will be purchased online and venues encouraged to use e-tickets to reduce contact and help with track and trace.
- Venues should have clearly communicated social distancing marking in place in areas where queues form and adopt a limited entry approach.
- Increased deep cleaning of auditoriums.
- Performances should be scheduled to allow sufficient time to undertake deep cleaning before the next audience arrives.
- Performers, conductors, musicians must observe social distancing wherever possible.
Although it’s still not completely clear which theatres will be reopening, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre has announced it will be putting on 70 performances of Jesus Christ Superstar in August and September.
Because the venue is set outdoors, it is in a better position to enforce social-distancing measures than tightly packed indoor theatres. To keep audiences safe, seating for the production has been dramatically reduced to 390 (30% of the usual capacity), and there will be a one-way system in place. Face masks will be mandatory for ticket holders as well as staff.
Tickets go on sale from 11am on 20 July and they’re going to sell like hot cakes, so make sure you get your hands on a pair on the Open Air Theatre website.
And that’s not all…
It’s also been confirmed that Sleepless – a musical adaptation of Sleepless in Seattle starring Kimberley Walsh – is due to start at the Troubadour in Wembley Park on 25 August (you can book tickets here).
Andrew Lloyd Webber is also working on a pilot scheme with the government that would allow socially distanced audiences to return to the London Palladium (keep up to date here).
And the Donmar Warehouse will open its socially distanced sound installation Blindness, adapted from the dystopian novel by José Saramago, on 2 August (more information can be found here).
We’ll keep you updated on any further performances that are confirmed to retun. The show must go on, after all.