When England moves back into a Tier system at 12.01am on 2 December 2020, indoor theatre performances will be allowed in Tiers 1 and 2 with an audience of 1,000 socially distanced people or 50% occupancy, whichever is smaller. However, in Tier 3 such events will be delayed or cancelled.
This has left many producers, creatives and performers who were ready to open productions over the festive period analysing the detail of prime minister Boris Johnson’s 56-page Covid Winter Plan, particularly in relation to the limitations on capacity, and awaiting the announcement on 26 November of which areas will be in which tier with trepidation.
Julian Bird, chief executive of the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre, said in a statement:
“Today’s announcement of new restrictions for performing arts venues in all tiers has shaken an already fragile sector. Closure of venues in tier 3 areas will mean cancellation of pantos and other shows, risking organisations’ long-term survival and leaving theatre freelancers adrift with no compensation.
“The capacity constraints in tiers 1 and 2 will lead to financial problems for venues and disappointment for audiences. It is unclear why these have been instituted in a sector with no known spread of the virus. As ever, we remain committed to working with Government to secure the survival of our world-leading theatre sector.”
Apart from a possible break in the restrictions over the Christmas holiday period, the tier system looks likely to stay in place until March 2021, with individual tiers in locations being reviewed every 14 days.
This timeline is likely to impact some theatres’ 2021 commitments, not least those whose production schedules may have presumed an earlier return to full capacity houses.
Theatres Trust director Jon Morgan welcomed the news that theatres in Tiers 1 and 2 would still be able to reopen from 2 December and acknowledged the great relief that creatives who had gone to enormous lengths to plan safe, socially-distanced pantomimes and other shows would be feeling.
However, he added: “It remains the case that, for the majority of theatres, it is simply not viable to reopen with social distancing in place so many theatres will not reopen even in the lower tiers.
“We are encouraged by positive developments in finding a vaccine and the introduction of mass testing, however if there are any delays in the timetables for these, theatres are only supported by the extension of the furlough scheme and government grants until the end of March. It is therefore essential that work continues across the sector and with government to identify mitigating measures that might allow fuller audiences to return safely to theatres as soon as possible.”
Find our more about the latest restrictions HERE.