English theatres will be open to full capacity audiences from today (19 July)
Remaining Covid restrictions are relaxed across England this week after almost 18 months.
There will also be no legal requirement for face masks, test and trace or vaccine passports, although theatre venues may choose to impose their own rules.
It follows a delay to the originally planned easing of restrictions on 21 June, resulting in many West End shows and tours having to restrict audience numbers or cancel performances completely.
SOLT and UK Theatre Chief Executive Julian Bird said in response to the news: “We welcome today’s confirmation that 19 July will see the lifting of remaining lockdown restrictions – meaning that theatres can open to full audiences for the first time in 16 months.
“This is a lifeline for our industry, essential for the survival of theatres across the country. We will be working closely with Government in the coming days on revising the performing arts guidelines, ensuring that our audiences and staff can feel safe and confident in returning.”
Theatres Trust Director Jon Morgan commented: “Today’s confirmation that Step 4 of the reopening roadmap will go ahead on 19 July is welcome news for theatres in England, who will no longer face capacity caps and social distancing requirements. This will enable theatres to welcome back full audiences, producing shows that are financially viable and to provide more work for the sector’s precious freelance workforce.
“We know that theatres will do everything in their power to continue to ensure they provide a safe environment for their audiences.
“While it is good news for England, theatres in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are still subject to tighter restrictions. A consistent approach is important both for the sake of struggling theatres in those nations and the impact on the viability of UK-wide tours, which are a vital part of the theatre landscape.”
Restrictions in other parts of the UK are still to be confirmed.
Although capacity restrictions have lifted, self-isolation requirements remain in force which was led to a number of shows cancelling performances.
Union Equity is calling for a relaxation of the current restrictions in order to allow productions to continue without risk of sudden closures.
Equity General Secretary Paul W Fleming said: “Equity wants to keep our members safe and continue to support the fight against Covid-19, but current restrictions are disproportionate and not tailored to the needs of the industry. From sport to hospitality, the government is taking a sector-specific approach and we’re just asking them to do the same for live performance and broadcast.
“As planned in England from August, a careful testing regime could and should replace the current blanket isolation approach in place across the UK. If it doesn’t, the vanguard of the UK’s social and economic recovery from Covid could face irreparable damage.”