Back to Square One for Theatres as Government Announces New Lockdown in England
Image (l-r): Sir Patrick Vallance, Boris Johnson and Professor Chris Whitty speaking live from Downing Street yesterday evening.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, flanked by the UK Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, and the Government’s Chief Medical Adviser, Professor Chris Whitty, announced a further tightening of England’s restrictions to prevent the growing second wave of Coronavirus infections.
The tightening of restrictions – which applies to England and will see it fall in line with Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – is akin to returning the entire country into a national state of lockdown… with several exemptions.
While the full list of exemptions are to be published in law over the coming days, it has already been announced that “entertainment venues such as theatres, concert halls, cinemas, museums and galleries, casinos, adult gaming centres and arcades, bingo halls, bowling alleys, concert halls, zoos and other animal attractions, botanical gardens” must all close for at least the next four weeks from Thursday, 5th November until Wednesday, 2 December – or throughout November.
The list of exemptions – making the new lockdown different to the original action back in the spring – include:
- childcare or education, where this is not provided online;
- work purposes, where your place of work remains open and where you cannot work from home (including if your job involves working in other people’s homes);
- to exercise outdoors or visit an outdoor public place – with the people you live with, with your support bubble or, when on your own, with 1 person from another household;
- for any medical concerns, reasons, appointments and emergencies, or to avoid or escape risk of injury or harm – such as domestic abuse;
- shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which should be as infrequent as possible;
- to visit members of your support bubble or provide care for vulnerable people, or as a volunteer;
Once again, outside of the exemptions listed above, people are not allowed to mix with anybody (outdoors or indoors) outside of their households.
“Food shops, supermarkets, garden centres and certain other retailers providing essential goods and services can remain open.
“Hotels, hostels and other accommodation should only open for those who have to travel for work purposes and for a limited number of other exemptions which will be set out in law.
“A full list of the business closures will be published and set out in law.”
Bizarrely, ‘Elite Sport’ such as professional football WILL be permitted to continue albeit behind closed doors… but theatres must all close.
We will have to see how this affects recent announcements such as the handful of Qdos pantomime productions opening around the country, including the London Palladium. But one thing is for sure… it may harm ticket sales for the December productions. The National Theatre has also recently announced its own pantomime, Dick Whittington, will be opening in its Olivier Theatre in December, but has had to cancel all of its November socially-distanced schedule (including Death of England: Delroy).
How any of these shows are expected to rehearse properly is obviously also a big issue. Plus, it’s important to keep in mind that the new 4-week restrictions are set out as a minimal amount of time. This means that while it is hoped a return to the previous tiered levels will come into place after the four weeks are up, it is entirely possible that the four weeks will be extended – scuppering any plans for December’s theatre programmes, or indeed any family plans for Christmas that people dare put in place (“The new measures will apply nationally for four weeks up to Wednesday 2 December. At the end of the period, we will look to return to a regional approach, based on the latest data.”)
Amateur theatre societies, companies and charities – while being viewed as outlets for hobbyists – haven’t any realistic chance of skirting around the new rules, so it will need to be a return to Zoom for most it seems.