Unlike the government, which announced the reopening of outdoor venues with only 48 hours’ notice, the committee understands the long lead times involved in putting on theatrical and other performances.
It quotes Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group which suggests that a big West End show requires three months of rehearsal time plus another three months for development work and to build sets etc.
On a smaller scale, Norwich Theatre, which is a receiving house, is already unable to put on any performances until next year.
As previously reported, typically social distancing requirements will reduce theatre capacity to 30% to 35%. Typically, to break even, theatres need to sell twice as many tickets.
Under current legislation (and guidance), most performances would also be impossible, since actors would also be required to maintain social distancing throughout productions.
Even if all of these issues can be overcome, which seems unlikely in the short to medium term, there is still the problem of engendering confidence in theatregoers that they could feel safe.
“Indigo’s ‘After the Interval National Audience Survey’ found that only 19% of people would feel safe returning to live events because venues had reopened and 42% are not considering booking for four months.” This position is likely to be exacerbated by the greater concern to those who might feel most at risk, for example the over-70s, who frequently make up a disproportionate element of any theatre audience, and the disabled.
With the economic threat hanging over the community, there is also a question as to whether theatre will be affordable and great enough significance to receive an allocation of time and money from what could be limited resources for so many. Similarly, a reduction in international tourism would hit the West End hard.