Theatre News

National Theatre says it is modelling socially distanced set-ups for shows

The London venue is exploring its options

National Theatre
National Theatre
© David Samuel, User:Hellodavey1902 / CC BY-SA (

The National Theatre has stated it is modelling reconfigured spaces for socially distanced shows.

As per initial reports in The Stage and the National Theatre's written evidence submitted to DCMS on 15 July, the Thameside venue said: "we are modelling a reconfiguration of our theatre spaces to allow audiences in ‘social bubbles' to attend together, and similar initiatives are under investigation all over the country."

Within the evidence the National also said: "Performing in this way would allow us to create work with both our specialist staff and our vital creative freelancers while serving as many of our audience members as we are able to safely."

A few weeks ago, the West End production of The Mousetrap announced it was planning to reopen with socially distanced audiences, and you can read our account of the first socially distanced show at The London Palladium here.

The venue has signalled that filming new live theatre is a key aspect of pushing forwards – organisations like The Old Vic have been streaming live shows from its empty auditorium over the past month or so.

The National added that, "subject to support, we can continue to perform our functions while conforming to social distancing rules", but that "in order to push forward on all of these fronts we need support from Government to meet our critical financial need through to the end of March 2021."

Within the report, the National also warned that "public confidence regarding large gatherings is unlikely to increase swiftly" and that venues are crippling themselves having to "cover fixed operating costs even while closed or open to socially distant audiences". At the same time, "box office takings and philanthropic income are likely to be vastly reduced as the economic impact of the pandemic becomes clear" while tourism will also be affected.

The venue also repeated calls for the "freelance workforce to be part of conversations despite many lacking an industry body to represent their views", as well as suggesting that "in planning to build future sector capability, innovation catalyst funding should encompass rights and IP as well as capture and distribution."