Culture secretary Oliver Dowden has warned theatre will need to find “new and innovative ways” to return, without “packing venues” and risking a rise in infections.
Writing in the Observer, he said the arts had been dealt a “knockout blow” by the pandemic, and admitted it faced “some of the biggest obstacles to its return”.
“And as long as social distancing rules remain in place, it makes it very hard to make the numbers stack up,” he said, adding: “I’m not painting this bleak picture out of defeatism though. On the contrary: we have to, and will, find a way to protect our theatres and performing arts.”
He said he was "absolutely clear-eyed about the huge challenges the sector faces and the urgent need for solutions", and highlighted measures already taken to help it, including £160 million of Arts Council England funds that have been “freed up”.
“But while we search for a lasting solution to coronavirus, we need to find new and innovative ways for the arts to return in some form, without packing venues and risking a rise in infections,” he said, adding that he had spoken to people including Andrew Lloyd Webber, about measures being taken in South Korea to get theatres up and running, and a new working group that has been formed.
Dowden also praised the skills of people working in theatre, acknowledging that "they are itching to get back on stage and do what they love".
"I’ll continue to do everything I can to make that a reality,” he vowed.