The UK Government Issue Safety Guidelines for Staging Performances
Updated on 14 July 2020
The government have issued guidance on how to stage safe performances, after announcing yesterday that outdoor performances can begin from this week, as long as they comply with social distancing rules. These measures just apply to England and there will be separate guides for Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. This guide currently only applies to outdoor performances but will likely apply to indoor performances once we can move to Stage Four of Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden’s plan.
The Government’s Guide to Staging Safe Performances
This guide released by the UK Government is to provide clarity on how to safely stage performances during the pandemic. The thorough guide is broken down into seven parts and covers the following: returning to training, rehearsal and performance, social distancing in the performing arts, managing performances, and cleaning of objects and environment.
As has been common throughout the pandemic, social distancing must be carried out in a similar way to what many of us are used to. Social distancing must be heeded indoors and outdoors. Venues have been encouraged to have lower capacities to make social distancing more viable and to have staggered entry times. One-way travel systems will also be put in place.
The audience will need to be sat rather than standing. E-ticketing has been encouraged and it has been suggested that merchandise and refreshments are pre-ordered. Another suggestion is that programmes are provided digitally. Audience members will be advised to not bring coats and bags into the auditoria to prevent cluttering. Theatres are also to encourage their patrons to avoid certain types of travel when heading to a show.
Audience members are not allowed on stage and can’t touch any equipment used by performers. Cleaning will need to be done in between and schedules will need to be adjusted in order to make time for deep cleans.
The guidance states: “Social interactions should be limited to a group of no more than two households (indoors and out) or up to six people from different households (if outdoors). It will not be against the law for businesses and venues to host large groups, though premises that are not COVID-secure will not be able to house more than 30 people.”
To prevent risk of transmission, the guidance also adds: “Organisers should ensure that steps are taken to avoid audiences needing to unduly raise their voices to each other. This includes, but is not limited to, refraining from playing music or broadcasts that may encourage shouting, including if played at a volume that makes normal conversation difficult, for example during performance intervals.”
Venues will need to implement new cleaning regimes before they can open. Cleaning may need to take place numerous times throughout the day. Venues are encouraged to use natural ventilation, but most air conditioning systems won’t have to be adjusted.
Hand sanitiser will need to be made readily available at numerous access locations. Venues are also encouraged to limit suppliers and will have to clean equipment on arrival.
Signs and floor markings will need to be added throughout venues in order to help guide staff and visitors around the buildings.
Musicians who own their instruments will have to take responsibility for cleaning and disinfecting their personal items. Those with smaller items are asked to keep their instruments under their seats instead of shared areas. Music scores are to be limited to individual use.
The guidance states that shared equipment such as headphones will need to be disinfected in between users.
Self-tapes and online auditioning is encouraged. For in-person auditioning, screening will need to be put in place between performers and casting teams, whilst working alongside the needs of disabled actors. Performers are encouraged to not arrive before their audition slots.
Productions are to be mapped out before rehearsals take place and actors are encouraged to learn their lines ahead of time. Outdoor rehearsing is encouraged “where possible” and social distancing should be adhered. It’s also suggested to reduce group sizes where possible in order to maintain social distancing.
At this point in time, we are at Stage Three of the Culture Secretary’s guide, so only outdoor performances will be permitted.
Singers should be socially distance by three metres if singing face-to-face, but it is suggested that performers be positioned side-by-side or back-to-back. Booth and/or screens should be used between each singer, where possible. Extended social distancing is also to be maintained between wind and brass players.
Regular private testing should be considered but this does not allow for other measures to be relaxed. It is suggested that performers are to do their own hair and makeup and are encouraged to avoid public transport.
It has been suggested that shows, “reduce the size of the cast where possible to reduce the number of contact points, for example by reducing numbers of non-essential supernumeraries, players taking dual roles.”
Face coverings are encouraged to be work in enclosed spaces where social distancing is difficult to maintain but this doesn’t allow for other measures to be relaxed. Face coverings are not to be mandatory. The document states that “face coverings are not a replacement for the other ways of managing risk, including minimising time spent in contact, using fixed teams and partnering for close-up work, and increasing hand and surface washing.”