London’s National Theatre is exploring the possibility of reopening its spaces while social distancing restrictions remain in place, in a move that would see performances return to the theatre for the first time since March.
A statement from the organisation said it believed "theatre can and should be performed in this new world", and is investigating whether it can reconfigure its theatre spaces to allow audiences to attend in social bubbles.
Addressing the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee, the NT statement added: "Subject to support, we can continue to perform our functions while conforming to social distancing rules."
Indoor performances will be permitted from August 1, providing social distancing is maintained, however the government has not yet confirmed any dates for when theatres will be able to operate without restrictions in place.
Evidence submitted by the NT to the DCMS committee’s Covid-19 inquiry details some of the methods it is exploring to restart live performances, even with some distancing measures in place.
"On the South Bank we are modelling a reconfiguration of our theatre spaces to allow audiences in social bubbles to attend together and similar initiatives are under investigation all over the country,” it said.
"Performing in this way would allow us to create work with both our specialist staff and our vital creative freelancers while serving as many of our audience members as we are able to safely," it added, though warned both 1 and 2-metre distancing measures would still not bring capacity "close to normal levels".
It added the ability to leverage philanthropic donations, which could match government investment, would be greatly increased if it is able to deliver at least some of its cultural output.
No dates or further details have yet been suggested, and a spokeswoman for the NT told The Stage the organisation is waiting for confirmation of how the government’s £1.57 billion package could provide support before progressing the ideas further.
The NT’s written evidence also promised to adapt to provide as much work with communities and young people as possible while respecting social distancing.
Elsewhere, the NT is looking at "innovative" ways of reaching audiences further afield through filming, having achieved 15 million views on its free National Theatre at Home screenings during lockdown.
It said its online initiative showed there is an appetite for watching theatre digitally and would support research in how this could benefit the whole sector, not just major players.
"The current period has laid bare the disparity in digital capability between larger and smaller organisations. In planning to build future sector capability, innovation catalyst funding should encompass rights and intellectual property as well as capture and distribution," it said.
The submission was made prior to the government’s rescue package, but makes the case for financial support for the not-for-profit sector so that "companies will be able to work through the restrictions".
It said significant support is needed to meet its own "critical financial need", lasting through to March next year.
NT artistic director Rufus Norris has previously warned the theatre’s reserves will be entirely depleted by Christmas without a cash injection.
Substantial redundancies have already been announced at the NT, including approximately 400 casual workers whose contracts are being terminated.
The DCMS committee’s report has now been published, and argues government was too slow to respond to the arts sector’s crisis, resulting in a large loss of jobs that could have been avoided had aid been confirmed sooner. The rescue package was announced on July 5, more than three months after theatres closed.