Already fighting for survival, theatres in the UK have been frustrated by the delay in the lifting of the COVID-19 restrictions, as concern over the Delta variant of the coronavirus pushed back the full lifting of restrictions from 21 June to 19 July.
However, there is light at the end of the tunnel for theatre producers, as Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on 22 June that England is ‘on track’ for the revised date of 19 July for the lifting of the remaining restrictions, according to What’s On Stage.
For many theatres, full capacity is the only way they can make a profit, and many venues have decided to postpone reopening until there is more of a guarantee they can fill seats, which will only be possible after 19 July.
The current rules only permit 50 per cent capacity in indoor venues.
With over 80 per cent of theatres in England waiting until the revised date to reopen, the theatre industry has lost over £200 million in revenue.
Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber, who had said he would risk arrest to reopen his West End theatres at full capacity on 21 June, has now ruled himself out of a Government pilot scheme to test the risk of live events, saying the industry has been treated as ‘an afterthought and undervalued’.
He will open his musical Cinderella, being staged at the Gillian Lynne Theatre in the West End, on 25 June, but with a 50 per cent audience capacity.
Other venues are also going ahead with half capacity auditoriums, such as London’s National Theatre, which is running After Life at the Dorfman Theatre, and Under Milk Wood at the Olivier Theatre.
The National Theatre said: “Social distancing is not financially viable in the long-term, but the safety of our audiences remains the priority”.
The Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre chief executive, Julian Bird, has called for the Government to consider greater financial support for theatres.
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