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English theatres to return from next month: what to expect when the show goes on

We pause for a reflection on where England is with its reopening plans

Sondheim Theatre
© Matt Crockett

The roadmap is in motion – we've just passed step two and, with the death rate continuing to fall, it's clear that increased risk mitigation and the inexorable vaccine roll-out have really given a big boost to society. So, as we wait for stage shows to return, what happens next in the world of theatre?


Drive-in shows get the green light

In line with "step two" in the government's English roadmap, drive-in shows are back! There's a raft of performances coming up, with venues including The Drive In in north London offering both cinematic experiences and live concerts


Socially distanced performances are back in England next month

We're just over a month away from "step three" of the government's reopening roadmap – at which stage socially distanced performances should be permitted. Similar to last December's reopening conditions (but without the tiered system across the UK), socially distanced shows will be permitted either indoors or outdoors. We've created a list of what is available here.


Audrey Brisson as Amélie Poulain
© Pamela Raith


Producers are scheduling shows around the June reopening

21 June is currently the date pencilled in for when performances will be permitted without social distancing and, as a result, a large body of producers have set opening dates for big shows without reduced-capacity audiences just after this time – including Heathers the Musical's West End return (opening the VERY DAY shows are permitted) and the world premiere of Cinderella at the Gillian Lynne Theatre. Find out what's opening here. Furthermore, don't expect to see mask wearing, temperature checks and staggered arrival times disappear any time soon.


Covid status certification looks important

There are still dozens of questions surrounding the role of "Covid status certification" – essentially a way for a layperson to prove that they're sufficiently protected from Covid, or unable to transmit the virus. The vaccination rol-out, coupled with a major testing effort (you can now receive seven Covid tests for free via Gov.uk) should mean this certification should be relatively easy to implement and care-free for the majority – hence why most of you were fully behind the scheme, according to our recent poll.


Pilot events lift off

Amidst all the excitement about dates, one key aspect of reopening theatres is the government's Events Research Programme. This scheme will see state-led pilots of rapid testing, "Covid status certification" (an alternative phrase for what has come to be dubbed vaccine / test passports) and other risk mitigation measures such as mask wearing. You can have a look at which events are taking place here.


Insurance is increasingly important

What the industry needs, as has been repeatedly said, is some sort of government-steered insurance offering for producers. This can mean that venues can open more certain in the knowledge that if another lockdown occurred then they wouldn't be left in dire financial straits. Reports have said that discussions are ongoing – we'll wait to see what this year provides. As the Prime Minister said on Monday, Covid will be with us even when it isn't shutting down society, so mitigating risks is always important.

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