Staying safe and financially afloat: How theatres are navigating the difficult Covid challenges

Tap above to watch video report by Faye Barker


UK Theatre and Society of London Theatre have launched a campaign to support venues as they navigate the challenges of re-opening with the uninvited guest that is coronavirus. 

The 'See It Safely' scheme is also designed to give audiences the confidence that venues have signed up to a code of conduct that means everyone can stay safe in these challenging times, whilst also enjoying a return to live theatre.

Very few of the UK's 1,100 theatres have re-opened, and those that do admit that it is a massive financial risk to raise the curtain again. 

Credit: See It Safely

London's longest running immersive show 'The Great Gatsby' has recently welcomed audiences again in Mayfair with a re-imagined show. 

The 1920s party mansion has had to tone the festivities down a bit to ensure COVID-safe rules are followed, but the show's creator and director Alexander Wright says safety is the priority.

We're pretty good at understanding how to move an audience around the building. We've changed quite a lot and I know it's a very peculiar reason to re-make a show but a lot of the things we've discovered feel really cool.

Alexander Wright, creator and director, The Great Gatsby

With audience numbers reduced to a third of the show's previous capacity, producer Louis Hartshorn says the re-imagined production won't make any money and accepts the risk of another lockdown. Their main motivation though is to prove that it is possible to get a show back open.

The wider picture for theatres in London and across the UK is that most remain shut and it's a difficult road ahead. 

Jon Morgan, director of Theatres Trust, says that without more government help and support, the future is bleak. 

It's very bad for theatres right now. If we don't see some movement in terms of being able to open more fully or further support from the government, we're going to see a lot more closures and a lot more redundancies.

Jon Morgan, director of Theatres Trust

He also highlighted the importance of theatres outside of the West End that often sit at the heart of communities, and where they offer not only a cultural hub, but a social one too, working with everyone from the old to the young.

Actor and teacher, Damien Poole, spent 10 years performing in the West End but has since returned to his roots in Yorkshire to become Principal of his own Theatre Arts school in Harrogate.  He warns that if we lose our theatres, we risk losing so much more of the creativity around us, including other forms of entertainment like Netflix and podcasts.

Many organisations are still waiting to find out if they'll get a slice of the government's £1.57 billion pound arts rescue package, and there are likely to be winners and losers from the grants. But the encore they all really need, is the return of an audience.