Theatre News

Government says outdoor performances will be able to begin this week

Performances will be able to begin on Saturday

The Minack Theatre, one of the most iconic outdoor spaces in the UK
The Minack Theatre, one of the most iconic outdoor spaces in the UK
© Nilfanion / CC BY-SA (

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has announced that outdoor performances in England will be able to begin from 11 July.

The new announcement is "stage three" of Dowden's five-part process for reopening venues, which was revealed last month. All productions will have to feature casts, audience and crew adhering to social distancing rules, and it is likely that few shows will be able to fully open for this Saturday.

Dowden added: "Our theatres, operas can put on shows for socially distanced audiences…venue capacities will be reduced and electronic ticketing will be encouraged". All auditoriums will have to have deep cleans between performances.

All venues will be instructed to produce risk assessments and review their cleaning regimes, however deep cleaning and social distancing systems, including floor markings are all required to be completed in a way that does not damage the historic fabric of any listed buildings.

Though he did not offer any potential dates for indoor performances, the Culture Secretary has repeatedly stated his wish to find a way to stage pantomimes this Christmas, though has said that this will be both challenging and depend largely on the state of the pandemic and what safety provisions may have to be put in place.

On Sunday the government unveiled a warmly-received £1.57 billion package to support the arts sector throughout the ongoing crisis, though many criticised the tardiness of the announcement (with dozens of venues already making staff redundant or closing until 2021) and the lack of clarity provided around who exactly may benefit.

Many venues, including the Minack Theatre in Cornwall, have repeatedly called for more guidance on staging shows outdoors. Jon Morgan from the Theatres Trust said: "Alongside the very welcome and much-needed package of government support for the culture sector announced earlier this week, the publication of the performing arts guidance today will give a further degree of clarity to theatres. The publication of details for Stage 3 will allow theatres to move to outdoor performances from 11 July.

"However, it is disappointing that the guidelines have been published without a ‘not before' date for Stage 4 and the all-important Stage 5 – the point when theatres will be able to open fully and welcome back audiences without social distancing. For the majority, it means continued delay and uncertainty as to when they will be able to reopen fully and for some, this delay may mean they never reopen.

"We appreciate the difficulty in setting a date for Stage 5 as it will always be conditional on circumstances such as the R rate remaining low, further safety tests being conducted and the safety of staff, creatives and audiences must be a priority. But without even an indicative date it is difficult for theatres to plan ahead – and for many theatres this uncertainty will be devastating."

According to DCMS: " This gives the green light for the likes of outdoor opera at Glyndebourne, Sussex and plays at Cornwall's Minack Theatre, to go ahead. London's West End will also return through the Six, The Musical Drive-In."

Dowden has unveiled further new strategies for performances here.