Coronavirus Roadmap: Guide to the Four Steps of Theatre
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.
Can theatre happen in Step One of the Coronavirus roadmap?
Currently, we are in Step One of the Coronavirus roadmap, which began on 8 March. In Step One, no live theatre to an in-person audience is allowed to take place, as the stay at home mandate remains in place. All theatres and places of entertainment and leisure are shut to members of the public for recreational use like attending a show. However, live streams staged inside a theatre are still given the go ahead, as theatres are deemed a safe place of work.
In Step One, you can meet up with one person in a park, so if you feel compelled to sing your favourite musical theatre songs to one another (from two metres away, of course), then that's allowed.
Can theatre happen in Step Two of the Coronavirus roadmap?
Step Two is the second of four steps laid out in the roadmap. Currently, England is set to enter Step Two of restrictions from 12 April. However, Step Two could begin after 12 April if Covid levels are deemed too high.
Although theatres are not allowed to open in Step Two, live entertainment can resume, if taking place in a distant manner. So far, venues such as drive ins can reopen, as audiences will remain socially distanced by staying in their cars, or remaining two metres away from other parties.
The Drive In at Troubadour Meridian Water has 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 to be announced.
After appearing together in Six at the Arts Theatre, the Olivier Award-nominated actresses will perform a concert at Troubadour Meridian Water on 3 May. The line-up includes Jarneia Richard-Noel, Millie O'Connell, Natalie Paris, Alexia McIntosh, Aimie Atkinson, Maiya Quansah-Breed and Grace Mouat.
From April 2021, some large-scale events will happen as part of the Events Research Programme. During this trial period, a select number of gatherings with no social distancing rules will be allowed, with scientists and government officials investigating the risks in both crowd sizes and transmission. Currently, no details have been released on the types of events that will take place, as well as dates. However, with the focus on theatres in later steps, it’s likely live entertainment will feature in the Events Research Programme. Read more about the Events Research Programme.
Shakespeare's Globe will also open in April, during Step Two of the Coronavirus roadmap. The theatre will open for guided tours, with audiences being able to experience the traditional Shakespearean theatre this summer. Check out all the different Shakespeare theatre in London here.
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. Currently, England is set to enter Step Three of restrictions from as early as 17 May, but this is a tentative date based on low Coronavirus rates and success in the Covid vaccine rollout.
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. Nimax Theatres’ chief executive Nica Burns has confirmed musicals including Six and Everybody’s Talking About Jamie will open from mid-May. On the other hand, productions like Harry Potter and the Cursed Child will not return until theatres can safely open at full capacity.
Theatres opening from 17 May must keep new capacities in mind as a precautionary measure to keep casts, crew and audiences safe. Indoor arts venue 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. This means all open-air performances currently scheduled for this summer have been given the go ahead, such as shows at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.
Theatrical installations will also be opening in Step Three. Flight will resume performances at the Bridge Theatre from 17 May for a three-week run. Future performances at the Bridge Theatre are to be announced.
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 is 21 June, but this could be pushed back if it is deemed unsafe to move to the last step.
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.
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?
No. The tentative dates for each step will not be moved forward. Each step will take place for a minimum of five weeks before moving onto the next part of the Coronavirus roadmap.
Theatres can open from as early as 17 May 2021 in Step Three, and then 21 June 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.
So far, all steps in the Coronavirus roadmap remain with the original date posted.