With a handful of our theatres preparing to reopen their auditoriums over the next few weeks, many audience members will be heading back into a theatre for the first time since the start of lockdown. While this is an incredibly exciting time for the industry, I completely appreciate it can feel a little daunting. Many of us are of course familiar with a theatre space, but there are many who may have never experienced a socially distanced theatre before. To help try and calm any anxiety one may have, I thought I would share a post giving a general run down of what you can expect to see from a socially distanced theatre trip.
I just want to briefly add that this is a general run down – please be sure to read all information on theatre websites and booking confirmations to ensure a smooth experience.
So you’ve booked your ticket, and you’re ready to go an immerse yourself in the magic of the theatre! Firstly, I’d like to say thank you! Our industry needs all the help it can so thank you for taking the leap back.
Secondly, be sure to read all information provided when booking your tickets and looking through your confirmation. Certain theatres like The London Palladium are including specific entry points and entry times on your tickets. This is done to try and streamline the flow of patrons into the building and to avoid large gatherings all trying to get in at once. Come prepared.
On entry you will probably have your temperature taken by a member of staff wearing a mask and possibly a visor. This is a simple and easy process which includes staff positioning a digital thermometer near your forehead. If your temperature is a little high you may be asked to step aside and return once cooler. If you’re temperature is too high you will be refused entry and an exchange or refund will be arranged. If you’re temperature is normal you can carry on inside.
Once inside you will find a one-way system around the venue and you will always be required to wear your mask, except when eating or drinking. Please be aware this isn’t a loophole. Staff will be watching and if they see you with your mask off for prolonged positions they will approach and politely remind you that it needs to be worn.
The seats will be arranged into bubbles with at least a meter between you and another party. The out of use seats will be clearly marked, and you are required to stay in your assigned seats for the whole performance (bar any bathroom breaks), which means no swapping in the interval – I know, we’re all guilty of it at some point.
So this next point in particular will be different for each theatre but onto the theatre bar. -The Troubadour Theatre Wembley Park, drinks had to be pre-ordered through a specific website and will be available to be collected from the bar. – Theatres like the Theatre Royal Bath which are showcasing shorted productions (with no interval) may not be serving drinks yet. – The London Palladium offers a delivery to seat service which again, needs to be ordered on your phone.
Okay, so out of the few theatres I have visited since lockdown, they generally don’t seem to have a plan for getting people out after the performance is done. For this I would suggest using common sense. Instead of joining a massive queue crowding around one exit, why not sit in your seat and let the crowd disperse before attempting to leave? You’re not going to get out any quicker by joining the crowd and by sitting in your seat you’ll be keeping yourself safer and you’ll get to enjoy the comfy seating that little bit longer.
I know once you get outside you may be desperate to rip your mask off, but please hold out until you’re are a clear and spacious area away from other people. If you’ve been wearing it for the past few hours a few extra minutes isn’t going to hurt.
These rules and suggestions may seem strict, but please remember not only have they been implemented to keep us all safe, but so we can get our industry moving again. Theatres have been closed for seven months with no recovery plan. Quite frankly that is just too long. Please follow the rules and keep yourself, staff and other patrons safe. Together we can show just how viable the arts industry is and together we can help it rebuild to its former glory.
Images are a combination of my own and a screenshot from BBC Points West.