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Government releases theatre guidance in line with step three of the roadmap to reopening

The government has updated the rules – the day after they came into force


© Photo by Travel Coffee Book from StockSnap

One day after shows have already kickstarted their socially distanced runs, the government has finally (better late than never?) published its reopening guidance for "step three" of the roadmap to reopening.

The guidance lay out useful tips and rules for both performance artists, practitioners, punters and enthusiasts, hoping to revel in the arts once more.

Most of the guidance is very similar to the rules that were established in November / December – capacity is capped at 50 per cent of an auditorium's usual size, or 1000 individuals – whichever figure is lower. For outdoor events, it is up to 4000 people or 50 per cent of a normal capacity, again, whichever is lower.

Audiences should be seated in according to gathering limits for outdoor and indoor performances. For indoor shows, this means the rule of six (with 2 households / bubbles or up to six people which do not mix) while for outdoors it means groups of up to 30 people. The government has also advised that, if possible, seating should be configured in such a way that those in the same group (but not in the same bubble) maintain distancing from one another.

Face coverings are mandatory in any indoor space, and rigorous NHS test and trace measures must be pursued, as has already been reported. Staff must wear face coverings at all times, while also managing staggered entry times for audience members to prevent crowding or congestion at entry points. Staff members will usually also supervise your exit from a venue in a controlled fashion, with one-way systems also in place.

Cloakrooms are largely prohibited, with the guidance also stating that shows should "avoid encouraging customers and audiences to raise their voices" and also "consider whether your production, event or performance can take place without an audience", and could "explore alternative approaches such as virtual or live-streamed events." Breaks or intervals should also be removed if at all psosible.

The government has advised creating additional dressing rooms to minimise the number of people in a shared space, while also upping the frequency of deep cleans, especially in toilet facilities. As expected, hand sanitiser stations should be out in force.


The government has suggested reducing the number of musicians or widening the space available to the band (in the case of Curve Leicester, plans involved the idea of positioning the orchestra outside the auditorium and streaming them into the space). It has also suggested doing performances outside if at all possible – venues such as the RSC have taken this to heart and built an entirely new space.

But what about food, I hear you cry: theatres do not need to abide by table service rules that exist for bars and restaurants. Kiosks and concession stands can serve food and drinks to customers who can take these back to their seats. Only once seated can these be imbibed/ chomped on.

There are also stipulations for amateur performances! Outdoors – performing arts activities of up to 30 people can take place as long as all the relevant distancing measures remain in place.

The situation is slightly more limited indoors: arts activities can take place in a group of up to six people, or two households / bubbles. Multiple permitted groups can co-exist in the same space as long as no singing is involved – it can only be one group of up to six people if there is singing.

The guidance also says that additional restrictions may exist if venues also have cafes, bars, retail shops etc on their premises.

The government has also developed principles to make sure that all guidance is able to support disabled artists, audiences, visitors, participants and employees. For example, venues should remember all accessibility responsibilities under the Equality Act 2010.

There's so much to see out there right now: new writing – like Jack Holden's Cruise, nestled side-by-side with fan favourites like Six or Everybody's Talking About Jamie, as well as cockle-warming and innovative musicals such as Amélie. In Coventry you can see April in Paris, while Zinnie Harris' Meet Me At Dawn will reopen the Hope Mill in Manchester. Curve Leicester will kick off with a starry gala from Thursday. Off-West End, you can sample some incredible new musicals thanks to "MT Fest UK", while Wendi Peters brings new piece You Are Here to life at Southwark Playhouse.

See what's coming to stages near you in our dedicated guide

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