Theatre, pantos and musicals to return as Boris Johnson announces they can reopen from August 1 with social distancing


THEATRE, pantos and musicals can finally return after Boris Johnson announced they can reopen from August 1 with social distancing.

The Prime Minister today gave indoor live theatre performances the green light to go ahead “subject to the success of pilots”.

The Prime Minister today confirmed indoor theatres could return

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference, the PM confirmed the show must go on.

He said: “We will restart indoor performances to a live audience, subject to the success of pilots, and we will also pilot larger gatherings in venues like sports stadia with a view to a wider reopening in the autumn.

“All of these measures, for August 1, should be done in a Covid-secure way.”

This will see indoor venues operate at a reduced capacity, forced to employ social distancing for both audiences and performers.

Theatres will need to increase deep cleaning and use e-tickets to help with track and trace.

Performances must also be scheduled to allow sufficient time to undertake deep cleaning.

The Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden praised the plans which mark stage four of the government’s roadmap for the reopening of theatres.

He said: “The UK’s performing arts sector is renowned across the world and I am pleased that we are making real progress in getting its doors reopened to the public with social distancing. From August indoor theatres, music venues and performance spaces will safely welcome audiences back across the country.

“This is a welcome step in the path to a return to normal and, coupled with our £1.57 billion rescue package, will help secure the future of this important sector.”

Outdoor theatres have already been given the go ahead
 Theatres are boarded up in the West End of London
Theatres are boarded up in the West End of London

The announcement came during a sweeping speech where Boris unveiled a series of measures to get Britain back to normal.

They included:

  • Handing councils powers to shut pubs and cafés without going to Government first through “lightning lockdowns“
  • Insisting public transport is safe again as Brits can go back on trains and buses
  • Giving the NHS an extra £3billion so hospitals are “battle ready” for winter
  • Setting a target of 500,000 tests a day by the end of October
  • Putting a time frame on social distancing so the nation can finally have a hug
  • Getting football fans back into stadiums by October in a huge boost for the new season

The Prime Minister this morning called for the nation to return to “near-normal” from August 1 to help boost Britain’s ailing economy which has been ravaged by the pandemic.

And Mr Johnson said he could scrap social distancing as early as November – saying family and pals could potentially hug again by Christmas.

The PM had planned to announce a firmer back-to-work call-to-arms but watered it down after the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance publicly dismissed the idea Brits needed to go back to the office.

Boris Johnson todau announced indoor theatres could reopen from August 1

Earlier this month Mr Dowden announced theatres and music venues will be allowed to reopen in England from July 11 as long as performances take place outside.

Speaking at the time, he announced a number of pilot tests to see how performances could restart indoors.

The pilots will start with the London Symphony Orchestra at St Luke’s as well as the London Palladium and Butlins.

Even outdoors performances will have to follow strict rules – including actors staying at least a metre apart wherever possible.

It comes after theatres and the arts industry was given £1.57 billion in funding to help keep them afloat after being some of the last venues to be allowed to reopen.

The UK’s performing arts sector is believed to be facing an annual loss of £74billion and potentially 400,000 job losses in 2020.

In an open letter, the Society of London Theatre, UK Theatre and nearly 100 actors, writers, directors and leading creatives figures had called for government support from chancellor Rishi Sunak.

In the letter, it was warned: “Theatre is one of the UK’s most dazzling success stories. In all its forms, whether drama, musical theatre, opera or dance, British theatre is a world class cultural and economic force with productions filling venues from Broadway to Beijing.

“The pandemic has brought theatre to its knees. Theatres do not have the money to operate viably with physical distancing. It is difficult to see venues opening before the end of the year.”

In early May, theatre producer Sir Cameron Mackintosh said the lockdown measures mean West End theatres are unlikely to reopen until 2021.

Mr Mackintosh, who is one of the most successful musical producers ever with shows including Cats and Les Misérables, told Michael Ball on BBC Radio 2: “The truth is until social distancing doesn’t exist any more, we can’t even plan to reopen.”

Playwright James Graham was even less hopeful.

He says the theatre won’t survive without an “aggressive government bailout”.