Artistic directors have expressed fears that theatre audiences may be hesitant to return to public gatherings once lockdown rules are relaxed.
Venues have been thrown into uncertainty after last month’s closure orders forced theatres to shut their doors and immediately suspend performances with no idea when they may be able to reopen.
Theatre leaders Daniel Evans of Chichester Festival Theatre and Theatr Clwyd’s Tamara Harvey said their organisations’ priorities now lay in serving their communities’ immediate needs during lockdown, but also expressed apprehension over the potential impact on future audiences.
Speaking to The Stage, Evans said: “One of the big things is worrying that when the dust settles a bit, maybe when we’re over the worst, we still won’t know how audiences will behave – they might not want to come and sit next to strangers in the dark for two hours. People don’t like coughing at the best of times in theatre, but it’s going to take on a whole new meaning.”
Harvey believes: “There is going to be fear around gathering together, but there is also going to be such a need for it”.
“We want people to feel comfortable and safe, and that we’ve given proper thought to the enormity of that experience, and so hopefully we’ll be ready for that.”
Tom Morris, artistic director of Bristol Old Vic, also shared concerns about the risks involved in timing theatres’ reopenings.
“If we re-employ staff and start rehearsing productions, commissioning creative teams, employing actors and selling tickets, and then suddenly we’re not able to open, we will be done for. We can’t absorb this sort of shock twice,” he said.