UK Government says Outdoor Performances can begin this week!

Updated on 15 July 2020

After the Culture Secretary released his roadmap to getting theatre back open, we were still left hugely unsure of how and when. Today Oliver Dowden has announced that performances will be able to begin from Saturday 11 July! As per the initial roadmap of getting theatres open, this would put us at step 3.

When will theatres open in the UK?

Stage 3 has officially been given the go-ahead which means that outdoor performances can begin from this week. Dowden, the Culture Secretary, didn’t give us any idea of dates for when indoor performances can resume but again stated that he hopes to have pantomime season go ahead this Christmas 2020. He warns that this will, however, be difficult and depend on the state of the pandemic.

What does this mean for UK theatre?

Stage 3 means that outdoor performances can now happen, but all productions will still have to adhere to social distancing rules. This will need to be applied to both casts and audiences. More guidelines are to follow.

A Response from Jon Morgan, Director of Theatres Trust

A statement from Jon Morgan:

“Alongside the very welcome and much-needed package of government support for the culture sector announced earlier this week, the publication of the performing arts guidance today will give a further degree of clarity to theatres. The publication of details for Stage 3 will allow theatres to move to outdoor performances from 11 July.

"However, it is disappointing that the guidelines have been published without a ‘not before' date for Stage 4 and the all-important Stage 5 – the point when theatres will be able to open fully and welcome back audiences without social distancing. For the majority, it means continued delay and uncertainty as to when they will be able to reopen fully and for some, this delay may mean they never reopen.

"We appreciate the difficulty in setting a date for Stage 5 as it will always be conditional on circumstances such as the R rate remaining low, further safety tests being conducted and the safety of staff, creatives and audiences must be a priority. But without even an indicative date it is difficult for theatres to plan ahead - and for many theatres this uncertainty will be devastating."

Update (15 July 2020): Regent's Park Open Air Theatre swiftly responds to the government's recent announcement with new show

It has now been announced (as of 15 July 2020) that Regent's Park Open Air Theatre will be staging a new special concert of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's Jesus Christ Superstar starting this August. The production is the result of the UK Government's announcement earlier this month that outdoor theatres may now re-open.

Executive Director William Village said: "Following the government's announcement last week that outdoor theatres may re-open, we have been working around the clock to find a way to open in August and September this year. With social distancing, seating capacity has been dramatically reduced to 390 seats (down from 1,256). This makes producing any large-scale show economically extremely challenging, particularly as we are an unfunded organisation. Nevertheless, both for us as a venue, and the industry as a whole, we believe it is incumbent upon us to do everything possible to re-open this year, and we're delighted to announce this special concert staging of our award-winning production of Jesus Christ Superstar.

Of course, the safety of our audience, performers and staff remains of paramount importance to us. We will follow government guidance meticulously; measures to be introduced at the entirely open air venue include: reduced capacity, distanced performers, enhanced cleaning, one-way systems, mandatory face coverings, temperature checks, paperless and cashless systems and multiple hand sanitiser stations. All information will be set out clearly on our website and communicated with audiences in advance of their arrival."

The 90-minute concert-style production of Jesus Christ Superstar opens at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre on Friday, 14 August 2020 and will run for six weeks until 27 September 2020.

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By Jade Ali

A love for theatre stemmed from my love of literature and music, but the West End on my doorstep opened up a whole new appreciation and passion for all things stage-y