One hates to be a prophet of doom but all of the information flooding in at the moment suggests that reopening of theatres is hardly imminent.
Indeed, with the exception of the new story regarding a prospective test that will definitively inform people whether or not they have suffered from coronavirus, everything points towards a long wait to get back into theatres.
Judging by some interviews with some major UK artistic directors carried out by the BBC, there seems to be reluctant acceptance that this is now unlikely to happen in 2020. Sadly, some may never reopen.
These views accords with other news over the last couple of days. Broadway theatres have announced that they will not reopen until 6 September at the earliest, which seems very optimistic, while PRS fears that music venues will be closed at least until the New Year.
This column has already outlined some of the difficulties, particularly the financial impracticability of opening a theatre at similar occupancy levels to those suggested by Transport for London, which sent out an e-mail stating that safe capacity on the underground was 13–15%.
It is hard to imagine that any theatre could consider reopening at these levels. The only exception might be for performances sponsored by large companies keen to attach their names to filmed performances.
Ignoring the problems surrounding audience management in theatres, that travel statistic is pretty damning.
While theatres exist in all kinds of environments up and down the country, the majority of the bigger theatres are inevitably located in large cities. This means that, even if they were open, visitors would struggle to get to venues.
The current government advice states that, “public transport should be avoided wherever possible to free up the limited space available to those who have no alternative way to travel.”
It is hard to see how visitors seeking a night out at the theatre could justify taking up the scarce resources that are needed for workers in essential industries, even if they were willing to take the risk.
Without pushing the matter too far, the same might apply to those working in the theatres, many of whom would require public transport to get to and from work.
Then there is the dearth of tourism, which will be compounded by the proposed two-week quarantine.
The alternative would be following the government advice to walk, cycle (in both cases impractical for most) and drive. While the last might work, especially as congestion charging has been temporarily abandoned, parking for large numbers of people is likely to be impossible in any city.
Then we come to social distancing and safety for the actors and those behind the scenes. At present, it might be possible to stage a play featuring either one or two well-spread performers. In the latter case, they would not be able to work with their director (or anyone else?) in the theatre, which will present its own difficulties.
Currently, there seems no obligation to wear masks, although the advice from TfL rather ignores this fact.
In the fullness of time, there is a strong possibility that we are all going to have to get used to masks, gloves and goodness knows what else. This is a further impediment. Even if the right solo show could be found and the funding put into place, can any of us really imagine watching their favourite actor performing while masked like a healthcare worker?
The quarantine for anyone coming into the country from overseas (except France or Ireland) causes a further problem.
To take a single recent example, is the National really going to ask Bryan Cranston to come to the United Kingdom and sit around in an empty flat for two weeks awaiting release and pay for that dead period?
For the time being, it is therefore inevitable that we will have to make the best of a bad job and enjoy online offerings, books, music, unlimited exercise and other entertainments, while looking forward to the great day when we can finally pursue our passion again.