Theatres and arts venues across England will be able to reopen to the public from May, the government has confirmed.
But social distancing and a capacity-cap (of the lesser of half the house or 1,000 people) will be in force for indoor shows. Outdoor shows will also be affected, with no more than a 4,000-strong audience regardless of the size of the stadium.
Despite the restrictions, many theatres are happy for their buildings to be able to reopen at last, more than a year since performance spaces could be used. Bosses are now looking forward to the likelihood of social distancing being removed completely by July 19, the most significant forward date in the progress of “roadmap” restrictions, after which theatres are expected to open unrestricted.
Many theatres across the country are planning to reopen with longer than usual summer seasons, while other producers are gearing up to take tours on the road.
York Theatre Royal will open its doors again on May 17, as will a few other theatres across the country and several in London. Local theatre reopenings include Salford’s Lowry complex, whose first post-lockdown activity will come on May 18 – C-O-N-T-A-C-T by Aria Entertainment and WEF Productions. The first true theatrical production on the main Lyric auditorium stage will be Northern Ballet in Dangerous Liaisons (June 1-5). More information here
The Prime Minister confirmed Britain is “back on track” to hit stage four of the government’s schedule in June, before deciding problems with variant strains of coronavirus meant theatres would have to wait an extra month, to July 19. Though deaths from Covid-19 are among the lowest for months, and infection rates have been falling, there have been recent rises in cases in some parts of the country. These are confined mainly to unvaccinated younger age groups.
Despite the better news, not all is rosy for theatre. The weeks theatres were able to open from May 17 were more in the nature of a warm-up for the real thing, as few British theatres are viable with a halved maximum house capacity. Only from July – when most theatres have usually stopped operations for the summer – will true viability return for larger touring houses. This is the reason many theatres are holding off on reopening until later.