Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden published a five-stage “phased return” plan for live performances yesterday.
Stage One – Rehearsal and training (no audiences and adhering to social distancing guidelines)
Stage Two – Performances for broadcast and recording purposes (adhering to social distancing guidelines)
Stage Three – Performances outdoors with an audience plus pilots for indoor performances with a limited distance audience
Stage Four – Performances allowed indoors/outdoors (but with a limited distanced audience indoors)
Stage Five – Performances allowed indoors/outdoors (with a fuller audience indoors)
Jon Morgan, director of The Theatres Trust, a national advisory public body for theatres has commented:
“The Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden’s announcement of a five-step roadmap for reopening of theatres is a move in the right direction, but critically it does not offer any timescales for stages 3 to 5, the stages when audiences will be admitted to performances. Without this detail, theatres will still be unable to plan effectively for their reopening. The impact of this uncertainty is devastating for the theatre industry. Each day there is news of another theatre making large-scale redundancies and, for every day of delay, there is the grave danger of more theatres closing permanently. The government must urgently confirm ‘no earlier than’ dates for stages 3 to 5 and respond to the sector’s calls for a financial rescue package to protect our world class theatre. Without this critical support, we face a cultural catastrophe.”
It is true, as of now, we are already starting to see shows putting tickets on sale for outdoor performances from as early as August but without a timeline from the government, it is still quite a guessing game as to when theatre may be able to resume.
As producer Cameron Mackintosh said a few months ago “from the moment social distancing doesn’t exist anymore, it will take us four to five months to actually get the actors back together”. So some sort of a timeline indication would at least mean producers can start the planning process and get the wheels in motion so as not to delay the return of live theatre for longer than necessary.