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Stage shows will not be affected by new government rules except where audience groups are above six

Indoor and outdoor shows can still go ahead as they adhere to safety rules


New changes to lockdown rules, meaning social gatherings of more than six individuals are illegal, will not affect theatre programming in England.

As long as shows are put on within organised and Covid-secure event spaces, such as theatres, these new rules should not impact any scheduled performances. According to Prime Minister Boris Johnson there is only one difference – "there must not be individual groups of more than six" (though single households with more than six individuals are exempt).

Many organisations and theatres already prevent bookings with groups of more than six, so these will not be affected. Venues will now be legally required to retain and record test and trace details as and when needed. There will be "marshals" to make sure these rules are put in place. Plans to pilot larger audiences in venues imminently have been put on hold.

As per Gov.uk guidance on principles for safe urban centres and green spaces, updated today, "venues following COVID-19 secure guidelines can host more than six people in total, but no one should visit or socialise in a group of greater than six". Within the same section, the government's advice reiterated that: "indoor theatres, music and performance venues are able to reopen with socially distanced audiences", as has been the case since 15 August.

Nothing has changed for professional casts and crews on shows, as these are considered workplaces – which are exempt from the rules about gathering.

The new lockdown rules come mere days after the government was said to be hoping to open spaces without social distancing 'within weeks' – with Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden gearing up for a special scheme dubbed "Operation Sleeping Beauty".

The Health Secretary Matt Hancock did say on BBC Radio 4 this morning however that the new rules would be "absolutely there for the foreseeable future. I really hope we can turn this around before Christmas." Local lockdowns and curfews are still possibilities in locations with a high rate of transmission.

The reveals are nevertheless devastating for individual performers such as magicians at birthday parties or caterers unable to supply birthday gatherings or events.

Johnson admitted that the existing rules are "confusing", but that he is now "simplifying and strengthening" precautions.

Regent's Park Open Air Theatre, which is hosting an outdoor revival of Jesus Christ Superstar, said in a statement before the new guidance that: "The change does not affect performances at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre. This is because we are following the safety and hygiene measures for businesses set out by the government in its performing arts guidance."

Read about the government's hopes to trial mass Covid tests for events


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