101 Dalmatians
Regent's Park Open Air Theatre, London
New musical based on Dodie Smith's novel

UK Government give go-ahead for outdoor theatre performances

Theatres including London's Regent's Park Open Air Theatre respond as green light given to socially-distanced shows from 11 July

The Sound of Music at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre

UK Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden announced yesterday that outdoor theatre performances would be permitted across the country from tomorrow, Saturday 11 July. This will mark the first recommencement of live theatre since the Covid-19 shutdown occurred in March.

In the new guidelines, theatres would be required to limit capacity and ticket sales to ensure social distancing. They would also need to sell tickets online to ensure track and trace would be possible, and are encouraged to provide e-ticketing. Backstage, performers, and musicians would be asked to observe social distancing “wherever possible.”

In response to the announcement, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre tweeted “We welcome the government’s announcement to allow outdoor performances to go ahead, and continue to explore ways in which we might be able to work with partners to find a safe and economic way for us to be able to open for a shorter period later this summer.”

The famed London venue had postponed its full summer season, which had been set to include revivals of Carousel and Romeo and Juliet, alongside the premiere of a new musical version of 101 Dalmatians. Past seasons have seen acclaimed productions such as Evita, Jesus Christ Superstar and Little Shop of Horrors play to capacity audiences. 

Shakespeare’s Globe, however, indicated that they are unable to reopen within the new guidelines, due to the challenges of social distancing in the venue.

The Minack Theatre in Cornwall, cited in Dowden’s announcement, have indicated they will announce a new programme of performances soon, although indicated these would not be the previously announced productions.

Other UK outdoor theatres are now working to respond to the announcement.  

The announced reopening will mark the start of stage three in the government’s five-stage roadmap to bring the performing arts back safely. Stage four would see indoor performances permitted, with social distancing in place, while Stage Five would represent, effectively, a return to normal, with indoor and outdoor performances permitted with “fuller” audiences. No further dates of when stages four or five may be reached were given.

Dowden indicated that the Government was now working to get indoor performances underway, and were undertaking a series of pilot performances in addition to continuing scientific research into protocols that would enable this to happen safely.

Julian Bird, Chief Executive of the Society of London Theatre, said “We continue to urge the government to publish 'no earlier than' dates for initial indoor performances with a socially distanced audience and most importantly for full venue reopening to allow theatres and producers to plan and prepare.”

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