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Prospect of live performances welcomed by Theatre Severn

By Dominic Robertson | Shrewsbury | Theatre & Comedy | Published: | Last Updated:

Theatre Severn says it is in discussions with producers about shows that could be hosted after the government announced a lifting of restrictions.

Theatre Severn.

The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has said indoor performances with socially distanced audiences will now be allowed from August 1.

Theatre Severn, like venues across the country has been unable to stage live performances throughout the pandemic, and now the Shropshire Council-run venue has welcomed the latest update.

Lezley Picton, Shropshire Council Cabinet member for culture, leisure, waste and communications, said: “We welcome news announced today that indoor performances may resume from August 1 in adherence with social distancing guidelines.

"Theatre Severn continue to liaise with visiting producers regarding a programme which is viable under such restrictions, and explore a safe re-opening at the earliest possible opportunity where the welfare of audiences, staff and performers will be of the highest consideration.

"Further planning will be undertaken to consider the unique challenges faced by theatres and to work towards a timeframe for the resumption of live performances.

"Theatre Severn is a cultural hub in Shropshire, attracting nearly 200,000 visitors to Shrewsbury last year, and enriching both our local economy and community. The latest easing of restrictions marks the first step on the road to recovery.”

Despite the announcement Jon Morgan, director of Theatres Trust, said many small theatres would still not be able to reopen.

He said: "We are aware that The Mousetrap in the West End are planning socially distanced performances and the immersive Great Gatsby, they have plans for socially distanced performances, but it's a long way short of obviously what we really need.

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"Even the producers of The Mousetrap say this is a short-term measure as a way of starting to encourage audiences to think about going back to theatre but it wouldn't be viable for them to do that for a very long time and that's the key issue.

"With social distancing even at one metre, theatres at most would operate at about 40 per cent capacity and most need to operate at about 70 per cent in order for it to work out."

Mr Morgan pointed out that cinemas can operate with a much lower capacity than theatres because their overheads are much lower.

He predicted that the majority of theatres still will not be able to open while social distancing in still in place.

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He added: "What many theatres will do, if they can, is reopen bits of their building, some of them already are, and if they want to they can put on workshops and community groups and things like that.

"Quite apart from the show on stage, they are community and cultural hubs and that bit of their activity they can reintroduce with the right safety measures.

"Our theatres are often the heart of our towns and cities and they are an important gathering space for people so it's good they can do that, it just won't be economic to put on plays in the normal way."

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