What does 'Freedom Day' mean for London theatres?
To take a line from Les Miserables, “the time is now, the day is here.” After what’s felt like an eternity of theatres playing to smaller capacities, London shows can now welcome in full auditoriums from 19 July 2021. Since March 2020, audiences have been in and out of theatres like they’re dancing the hokey cokey. But (and we’re hoping here!) that should all come to end as England enters the final step of the Coronavirus roadmap.
We’ve been able to see live theatre in the West End for a couple of months now, thanks to easing Coronavirus restrictions. But what does the media-named ‘Freedom Day’ mean for London theatres? Read our guide to the future of London theatres in the coming months, as well as restrictions from 19 July.
It’s also worth noting that this is all guidance based on current events. Nothing is set in stone, so it’s worth checking back on LondonTheatre.co.uk to find out the latest news and information.
What Covid safety measures are remaining in theatres after Freedom Day?
Even though theatres will be allowed to reopen at full capacity, a variety of Covid measures will still be being implemented across West End venues to ensure safety. If you’re going to see a show after 19 July, it’s recommended that you carry minimal possessions. It’s also very likely that you’ll have an e-ticket, rather than a paper ticket to gain access into the auditorium. You may have to arrive at the theatre at a specific time, as well as having to undergo more security checks to guarantee the safety for yourself and others. Other safety measures include:
Hand sanitiser stations
Wearing of face coverings are strongly encouraged, especially while moving around inside the venue
Modified routes around the building to avoid overcrowding
Restricted Stage Door activities after the show, meaning you can't meet the cast
All ATG theatres in the West End will be making sure that audiences can prove their Covid-free status in three ways. ATG theatres in London include: Ambassadors Theatre, Apollo Victoria Theatre, Duke of York's Theatre, Fortune Theatre, Harold Pinter Theatre, Lyceum Theatre, Phoenix Theatre, Piccadilly Theatre, Playhouse Theatre, Savoy Theatre and Trafalgar Theatre.
A negative lateral flow test within 48 hours of a performance.
Natural immunity after a positive PCR test within 180 days of a performance.
Two vaccine doses received at least two weeks before a performance.
What Covid safety measures are stopping in theatres after Freedom Day?
Some measures will be lifted in line with Freedom Day, 19 July. Most excitingly, socially distanced auditorium seating can now slowly become a thing of the past. Other measures being lifted include:
Restrictions on booking party size and limitations to households or bubbles
Compulsory temperature checks before entering the venue. Some venues may still require these.
Compulsory check-in via the NHS app before entering the venue
Will all theatres be back to full capacity from 19 July?
Choosing whether to allow full capacity audiences or remain with socially distant audiences is up to the discretion of the theatre owners and show producers. While the majority of West End shows will be welcoming the maximum number of people to their venues once more, some London theatres will be keeping their audience size limited to ensure safety of all visitors.
For example, the Hampstead Theatre will keep all their current productions including The Two Character Play and Big Big Sky as sold with full social distancing measures. Some shows had also planned a social distancing engagement as part of their reopening, including The Prince of Egypt. On the other hand, the National Theatre will be allowing more audience members in July, adding more tickets to cater for a larger capacity.
Shakespeare's Globe will also increase its seating capacity. Up to 400 standing tickets, or Groundling tickets as they are often named, will be available for each performance by the end of August. The maximum seating capacity at Shakespeare's Globe is currently estimated to open from 23 August. Find shows at Shakespeare's Globe in London this summer here.
Will my London show still go ahead after 19 July?
If you’ve booked tickets for any show in London, it’s highly likely that your performance will go ahead and you’ll be able to enjoy live theatre. But, there have been some instances in recent weeks where performances have had to be cancelled due to cast members either testing positive for Covid, or have been in touch with someone that has tested positive. If you have booked tickets for an affected performance with LondonTheatre.co.uk, our customer service team will reach out to you.
For all the latest information on cancelled West End performances in London, read here.
What happens to my theatre tickets if I test positive for Covid-19?
You do not have to take a Covid test before seeing a West End show, but it is highly encouraged. If you receive a positive result which means you have to isolate and you’ve booked your theatre tickets with LondonTheatre.co.uk, get in touch with our customer service team here. Our customer service team will be able to provide support and assistance, whether it’s exchanging tickets or needing a refund. If you have booked tickets elsewhere, please contact your respective ticket provider.
Are vaccine passports needed at the theatre?
Full details on the use of vaccine passports in the theatre are to be revealed.Although vaccine passports have not been made mandatory, gaining access to the auditorium will require audiences to demonstrate they are Covid-negative. Vaccine passports have been in discussion for a number of months, and would mean that if you’ve had either one or both doses of a Covid jab, you could enter a theatre with fewer restrictions. A number of leading arts figures have vocalised their support for Covid-status certification. Find out more about vaccine passports in theatres here.
Are any special events happening in the West End to mark Freedom Day?
No specific events have been announced by the Society of London Theatre to mark Freedom Day, 19 July. However, some shows have created initiatives to welcome audiences made up of NHS employees and other key workers that have supported their communities during the pandemic. Cinderella will be donating all proceeds from their first performance without social distancing to the NHS and St. John Ambulance. Meanwhile Wonderville Magic and Illusion are offering tickets to NHS staff.
Be sure to keep an eye out for any events taking place in London on 19 July!
Which West End shows can I see after Freedom Day?
Many West End shows will be opening in the coming weeks, including new shows and returning productions. Discover the best of London theatre with our guides, as well as keeping up to date for when all London shows are opening in 2021.
Could London theatres close again after Freedom Day?
Honestly, nobody knows. Hopefully London theatres can stay open in the coming weeks, months and years and the West End buzz can return. But, if Coronavirus resurges in the community, theatres may be forced to close once more. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that London theatres will never close again.