Johnson gives theatres their road back to normality


Theatres - both outdoor and indoor - will be allowed to reopen in May, the Prime Minister revealed today. The only downside to what has been a long-desired essential feature for the return to normal post-pandemic life is that theatres will be allowed to operate only at half capacity - 50 per cent or 1,000 people, whichever is lower (indoors) or 50 per cent or 4,000 people outdoors. Stage three of the “roadmap” to reopening theatres in England on May 17 is subject to a continued successful vaccination programme and a reduction in Covid hospital admissions and deaths. If these continue - and there has been a marked downturn in the figures since the latest lockdown began - theatres and other places of entertainment such as cinemas and concerts, will be given the go ahead for Stage Four from June 21. This would mean mass testing or other measures to ensure continued safety at venues, but all restrictions on numbers would be lifted. A separate review into testing and vaccination will decide whether entry to venues then will require proof of a negative test, or a vaccine certificate. The Government has previously ruled out domestic vaccine passport schemes, but admitted they might have a role in full theatre reopening. Though both dates are still weeks away, they at least offer theatre practitioners the chance to develop programmes to take us towards summer. The theatre industry remains one of the worst Coronavirus-hit parts of the economy, despite hundreds of millions in grants for the sector. The Prime Minister stressed that the detailed roadmap would be led “by data not dates”, and that there will be at least five weeks between the stages. The news will bring urgent planning meetings in theatres across the country. Though several West End shows are planning openings in May and before summer and this news will fit in with their plans, others had intended to hold off until after the traditional summer break until autumn, and might as a result find it difficult to organise their tours early. Local theatres like many across the North West might be able to organise short seasons from May with fuller programmes from September, though finances will be severely restricted.