How open air theatres will look in the aftermath of coronavirus

As the arts and entertainment industry continue to struggle in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, many venues are likely to evolve.

With a date for the re-introduction of mass indoor events yet to be confirmed, many performances, gigs and plays could look to the great outdoors.

Social distancing is a cinch for Visitors to the open air Roman Theatre in St Albans.

Like many businesses, the venue has transformed to become Covid-safe for both customers and staff.

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Measures such as socially-distanced seating, staggered arrival times and no interval to avoid queues for toilets when performances resume will help the show go on for the arts.

The Roman Theatre of Verulamium will only seat 220, instead of the usual 275, when shows resume.

Because singing and playing wind or brass instruments is considered ‘higher risk’ in new government guidance, rhe audience will be further back from the stage than normal to avoid any potential spray from projecting performers.

Adam Nichols, artistic director of the Maltings Theatre – which will stage The Merry Wives Of Windsor and Henry V at the outdoor theatre next month, said: ‘The fortunate thing about that venue is there are different levels, almost like a conventional playhouse so will have what are like stalls down at the bottom, then a dress circle on some grass mounds and then an outer grass bank which will be almost like an upper circle.’

The seated area will be in pairs, with a metre gap surround each set and performers will sing side by side in compliance with Government guidance.

Nichols added: ‘The stage area will be quite large so we can actually get the actors reasonably distant from each other and the style of music we are using in the musical show (The Merry Wives Of Windsor) is a belt-it-out type of 80s rock songs, so from a theatrical point of view them standing on their own and performing will work within the setting.

‘However, we are not going to have any brass and we are not going to have any woodwind.’

He added: ‘We are gong to have loos for staff and cast and there are public toilets near to the venue, but we are not going to have intervals so we are trying to minimise that, partly because of cleaning but also because of queuing and the time that it would take to get people through the loos, so we are going go straight through, no interval.

‘We are still discussing if we can do the bar safely. We are looking at what the open air cinemas are doing because obviously you don’t want lots of people gathering at a bar to be served, so we are looking at the possibility of pre-ordering and serving people at their seats.

‘We are going to give people timed arrival times but leaving is obviously the challenge because everybody’s leaving at the same time, so we are going to manage that with our front of house team so that we let people go a row at a time effectively.’

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