Theatre News

Theatre producers call on government to change isolation rules immediately after show cancellations

As rules shift, producers face new issues

The cast of Anything Goes in rehearsals
The cast of Anything Goes in rehearsals
© Maidwell Marketing

Theatre producers are calling for a change to Covid isolation rules given the precarious nature of reopening.

From 19 July, social distancing restrictions and mask wearing will no longer be mandated in almost all environments – meaning theatres can play to full capacity once more.

However, the fact that Track and Trace is set to remain means that anyone "pinged" (or told they have come into contact with a positive-testing individual) must isolate indoors for ten days – which, for cash-strapped productions without the ability to pay for understudies, may mean cancelling entire shows.

What's more, if one individual in a company tests positive for Covid, current guidance may mean the whole production is forced to isolate – again, preventing performances from taking place.

At the moment, plans are set to change on 16 August, with double-vaccinated individuals able to continue with their lives even if potentially exposed to someone testing positive to coronavirus (though those with two shots who test positive must continue to isolate).

This, for theatre producers, is not fast enough. In a statement, Howard Panter and Rosemary Squire, who oversee Jersey Boys and Anything Goes, said: "The gap between 19 July and 16 August hasn't been explained by the government, and will wreck havoc on live entertainment, just as they are all gearing up to open their doors to sold-out theatre crowds. West End shows that are open (a small amount compared to the number opening after 19 July) have already had to cancel performances due to the self isolation rules, Hairspray being the most recent, and our own Death Drop in the West End.

"This is not viable for the entertainment industry. That delay between selling out full houses and the risk of a single person in the cast, crew, front of house team needing to self-isolate, will potentially shut theatres down for gaps of a few to ten days (perhaps longer) and cost it money it can't afford."

Julian Bird of SOLT and UK theatre said today: "Without an alternative to automatic self-isolation for casts and crew that come into contact with a positive case, more theatre and shows will be forced to close in England just as they are allowed to open in full.

"Given the strictly controlled working environment under which theatres are already operating, we need a testing regime to replace the current system as soon as possible and certainly no later than 19 July."

We wrote a blog about the topic on Monday, exploring possible alternatives.

Panter and Squire are calling for a change, so that "theatres have a real shot to open and stay open".

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