Theatre News

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden unveils roadmap to reopen theatres and begin performances

Though no dates and plans for a financial package were mentioned

The Sondheim Theatre
The Sondheim Theatre
© WhatsOnStage

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has unveiled a five-step system to help reopen theatres.

The plan was presented today and will give some venues a chance to strategise their reopening, though no fixed dates have been given thusfar. The system is a phased approach, similar to what is going on currently with sporting events across the UK. Dowden's five-step roadmap to reopening is as follows:

Stage One – Rehearsal and training, though with no audiences and all 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)

The first two of these steps are being put in practice already, with some shows gearing up to begin rehearsals.

Dowden said: "We know the challenges – theatres must be full to make money, and performers need to be safe on stage as they sing, dance and play instruments – but I am determined to ensure the performing arts do not stay closed longer than is absolutely necessary to protect public health.

"Right now, we are supporting musicians, dancers and actors to safely resume training, rehearsals and recorded performances without an audience where organisations wish to. We will then progress with outdoor performances with an audience – and some outdoor events are beginning to be planned for later in the summer. Alongside this we'll do some pilots on indoor performances to identify the best mitigations to take. Eventually, and only when it is safe to do so, we'll reintroduce indoor performances with audiences."

Each stage will depend, according to Dowden, on where the country is in terms of the pandemic and rate of infection. No details of a financial package to help theatres and artists, which hundreds of industry leaders have been asking for for many weeks, was mentioned.

Significant problems still remain for venues – many of whom are facing financial peril and will not feasibly be able to reopen until stage five of the process.