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Photo credit: Westminster Bridge in London (Photo by Darv on Unsplash)

Coronavirus Roadmap: Guide to the Four Steps of Theatre

Sophie Thomas
Sophie Thomas

Last month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson laid out a four-step Coronavirus roadmap to get England out of lockdown. Details on what is allowed to happen in each step can be confusing at first, especially when it comes to the reopening dates of theatres.

In the past year, theatres have reopened and closed three times, but it seems as if this is the final hurdle before theatres can enjoy their continuous runs once more. But, live entertainment isn't limited to just West End shows; over the last 12 months, drive-ins, concerts and live streams have been entertaining audiences around the world.

Here's the lowdown on which theatre events can open in each step. Discover all the West End shows you can see in Step Three from 17 May.

Can theatre happen in Step One of the Coronavirus roadmap?

Step One of the Coronavirus roadmap was from 8 March - 11 April. In Step One, no live theatre to an in-person audience was allowed to take place, as the stay at home mandate remained in place. All theatres and places of entertainment and leisure were shut to members of the public for recreational use like attending a show. However, live streams staged inside a theatre were still given the go ahead, as theatres are deemed a safe place of work.

In Step One, you could meet up with one person in a park, so if you felt compelled to sing your favourite musical theatre songs to one another (from two metres away, of course), then that was allowed. 

Can theatre happen in Step Two of the Coronavirus roadmap?

Step Two was the the second of four steps laid out in the roadmap. Step Two was from 12 April - 16 May.

Although theatres were not allowed to open in Step Two, live entertainment could resume, if taking place in a distant manner. Drive ins reopened, as audiences remained socially distanced by staying in their cars, or remaining two metres away from other parties.

The Drive In at Troubadour Meridian Water posted a reopening date of 12 April, in line with the beginning of Step Two. At the London location, a series of musical theatre concerts took place, with events hosted by stars including Aimie Atkinson and Lucie Jones. West End Musical Drive In concerts are currently scheduled every Saturday from 17 April - 29 May, with performers including: Jodie Steele, Emma Hatton, Idriss Kargbo, Debbie Kurup, Vicki Manser, Keith Jack, Cassidy Janson, Sarah O'Connor, Daniel Koek, Cleve September, Trevor Dion Nicholas, Dom Hartley Harris, Oliver Tompsett, Alice Fearn, Aaron Sidwell, Layton Williams, Ryan O'Gorman, Blake Patrick Anderson and Shanay Holmes. 

From April 2021, some large-scale events happened as part of the Events Research Programme. During this trial period, a select number of gatherings with no social distancing rules were allowed, with scientists and government officials investigating the risks in both crowd sizes and transmission.  Read more about the Events Research Programme.

Can theatre happen in Step Three of the Coronavirus roadmap?

Step Three is the third of four steps which have been drawn out in the roadmap. England entered Step Three from 17 May.

In Step Three, in-person performances will be allowed to resume in both indoor and outdoor theatres, with social distancing regulations in place. Essentially, all theatres could open from 17 May, but it doesn't mean that all theatres will open straight away as it's up to the discretion of theatre owners. Theatres opening from 17 May must keep new capacities in mind as a precautionary measure to keep casts, crew and audiences safe. Indoor arts venues will be able to welcome audiences with a maximum limit of 1,000 people or 50% capacity, whichever is smaller.

It's slightly easier for outdoor theatres, as Step Three rules suggest all "remaining outdoor entertainment, including performances" are allowed. Theatrical installations will also be opening in Step Three.

Theatres opening in step three include the Apollo Theatre, Bush Theatre, Criterion Theatre, Duchess Theatre, Fortune Theatre, Garrick Theatre, Hampstead Theatre, Harold Pinter Theatre, Kiln Theatre, London Palladium, Lyric Theatre, Lyric Hammersmith Theatre, National Theatre, Palace Theatre, Shaftesbury Theatre, Shakespeare's Globe, Soho Theatre, Sondheim Theatre, St Martin's Theatre, Turbine Theatre and the Vaudeville Theatre

Discover all the West End shows you can see in Step Three from 17 May.

Can theatre happen in Step Four of the Coronavirus roadmap?

Step Four is the final step in the Coronavirus roadmap. The tentative date to enter Step Four of the roadmap was 21 June, but has currently been pushed back by four weeks, to 19 July. Find out more about the delay in Step Four Covid restrictions here.

In Step Four, all live performances are allowed to take place with no social distancing regulations, allowing for full audiences in the West End once more. Large-scale events will take place in all of London's theatres again, essentially meaning theatres can go back to a normal schedule pre-Coronavirus. There's no legal limit on social contact either, so any visits to the stage door after a show can take place too.

In an interview with The Guardian, Andrew Lloyd Webber has stated that, if theatres are to open later than 21 June, then he is prepared to be arrested if authorities intervene. The idea that theatres can open safely at full capacity is backed up by a study from University College London. As reported in The Stage, "UCL's Safe Return study has found that wearing face coverings in theatres or other public indoor spaces reduces aerosol droplet transmission by 99%. Laurence Lovat, professor of biophotonics at UCL, said: "Andrew Lloyd Webber is right. If theatregoers wear appropriate masks and follow other rules already in place, theatres become safe places to go to. Across all the tests: singing, breathing and speaking, these results show face masks provide significant and robust levels of safety against Covid-19 transmission."

As a result of the Coronavirus roadmap dates, London shows have posted reopening dates this summer in Step Four. All the West End reopening dates can be found here.  

Could Coronavirus roadmap dates come earlier than posted?

Yes. Although tentative dates for each step will not be moved forward, Boris Johnson has indicated that Step Four may be possible from 5 July, two weeks earlier than the tentative date given of 19 July. 

Theatres can open from as early as 17 May 2021 in Step Three, and now 19 July 2021 in Step Four.

Could Coronavirus roadmap dates come later than posted?

Possibly. The government have stressed that moving through the four steps will be led by "data, rather than dates." Although dates have been attached to the four steps, these are flexible and subject to change if Coronavirus rates rise and it's deemed necessary to place restrictions. There will be no tiered system though, with all English counties moving through the four steps together. 

Photo credit: Westminster Bridge in London (Photo by Darv on Unsplash)

Article Updated: 15 June 2021

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