Theatre is hardly back to normal, but many in the industry will at least be seeing the first signs of the kind of recovery that will be needed to keep companies afloat in the short term and allow them to prosper in coming years.
Many theatres are reporting strong sales, with Anything Goes perhaps leading the pack by extending its run having made an awful lot of friends both amongst critics and the kind of people whose word-of-mouth is gold dust.
Most do realise that it will take time to build back confidence across the board, especially as so many performances have been cancelled at short notice due to actual infections and apps that were far too quick on the draw.
A dichotomy is undoubtedly developing. On one side are those who believe that the virus has been defeated and wish to return to normal life. This team will also include people who are desperate to catch up with their favourite form of entertainment and accept what they regard as a reasonable risk. On the other sit the more wary who do not yet feel safe in crowded places.
The twain are very literally not meeting at the moment and may not do so for a considerable time, especially now that the infection and hospitalisation rates appear to be easing up again, with the prospect of something scarier taking off in September when the holiday season ends and children return to schools.
At the moment, the cautious group will still form a significant proportion of those that used to attend theatres regularly who will be reluctant to go into central London or other big conurbations, especially if they have to travel on public transport. The fear will have been compounded by the changes introduced on Terminus Day, following which there are no constraints on places of entertainment, except those that are self-imposed.
This means that theatregoers must expect to find themselves sitting in packed houses with masks optional, no kind of tracking, tracing, vaccination checks or guarantees as to whether those around them might have been in close contact with an infected person or are feeling unwell.
At some point too, the powers that be will eventually realise that the large numbers (like this writer) who are or will be suffering from Long COVID are very unlikely to book theatre tickets.
The concerns are twofold. First, they may feel unsafe, secondly due to a lack of certainty about the state of their health even a day or two ahead, they could be reluctant to arrange a very expensive theatre outing which might need to be cancelled at very short notice.
As if this wasn’t all enough of a headache already, producers must expect to face an additional impediment to recovery. At the moment, pent-up demand is undoubtedly filling many theatres but that effect is likely to wear off before too long.
While it may not be too relevant for smaller venues, the bigger the show the more they are to rely on tourist trade to fill a large percentage of seats, especially at premium prices. The same concerns apply to the Edinburgh Festival and Fringe.
For the last 18 months, that market has sadly been close to non-existent. We have now missed the boat on the summer season, but before the pandemic, there was a steady stream of visitors from overseas throughout the year. The big question is when they will return.
In principle, the easing of quarantine regulations should make a big difference, since even the most enthusiastic theatregoer was unlikely to relish a 10-day stay in a hotel as a prelude to holiday. However, the problem could well come at the other end. It is all very well to visit London, pig out on theatre and other cultural activities and then return home, but not if you are then forced to quarantine for a couple of weeks. If you are Antipodean, you might not even be allowed to return at all.
That is only the start. While they regularly deny it, there have been strong suggestions from those who understand these things that the government is now intent on a policy of seeking out herd immunity from coronavirus. Many of the experts seem to believe that this is impossible to achieve but that is a different matter.
The more pressing issue is that if tourists think that the UK is a dangerous place to visit, they will stay away. Similarly, if their governments look at the infection rates and blacklist our sceptred isle, then many prospective theatregoers will remain far, far away.
Realistically, it seems unlikely that there will be significant numbers of tourists visiting our shores in the next seven or eight months. That is very bad news for producers of big musicals and other attractions.
The real hope has to be that, come next summer, the vaccination booster programme will pay big dividends, those from overseas will be desperate to get back to the joys that the UK has to offer and this will include visits to theatres that are by then indisputably safe and welcoming.