The Society of London Theatre (SOLT) and UK Theatre have launched a nationwide campaign See It Safely, aimed at building confidence in audiences emphasising that theatres are Covid-secure spaces.
The campaign comes amid a backdrop of shows due to open in London’s West End with social distancing in place, including Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, The Play That Goes Wrong, Magic Goes Wrong, Potted Panto and Six The Musical; as well as off-West End and national productions.
Andrew Lloyd Webbers’ LW Theatre and Nimax Theatre which have been spearheading the safe return to West End performances have indicated high demand for returning shows, withSix The Musical expected to sell out.
The campaign will allow theatres to display a See It Safely mark when they sign up to a code of conduct. This code would demonstrate that “safety forms the foundation for their reopening plans”, SOLT and UK Theatre said.
To obtain a toolkit that includes the mark, theatres will have to pass an approval process that demonstrates they are operating in line with the latest government guidelines and public health guidance, which are laid out in a Covid-19 risk assessment.
The toolkit also includes an animated safety video, signage and recommended wording for theatres to include on their websites. Venues will also be provided training.
In addition, theatres can sign up to a set of “ticketing principles” aimed at reassuring audiences that, in the event of cancellation, they would be able to obtain an exchange, credit voucher or refund. If an audience member felt unwell, they would be able to exchange their ticket at least 24 hours prior to the performance for a later date.
More than 140 theatres have so far accessed the toolkit, and SOLT and UK Theatre said they were exploring sharing the toolkit with other organisations, including the Association of British Orchestras and One Dance UK, at the request of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. The Federation of Scottish Theatre will promote the campaign for its members in Scotland.
SOLT and UK Theatre chief executive Julian Bird said: “We have a number of challenges to meet before the majority of our theatres can open but we are confident that from a safety perspective audiences and our workforce can be reassured that every measure is being addressed and we look forward to rolling out the scheme and welcoming our audiences back. It is very encouraging that there have been no reported cases of Covid in any of our venues that have opened so far.”
SOLT and UK Theatre said that the audience response for shows that have been announced had been “overwhelmingly positive, with runs selling out or being extended”. The toolkit has been developed based on the experiences of theatres already operating, including the London Palladium and the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park.
Kenny Wax, SOLT President and Producer of Six The Musical in the West End and Manchester said: “Such positive sales give me confidence to open my other shows including The Play That Goes Wrong at the Duchess Theatre. There is clearly huge, pent-up demand for live theatre and it is wonderful to give audiences something to look forward to as we head into the Christmas season.”
LW Theatres chief executive Rebecca Kane Burton added that opening the doors to the London Palladium had enabled the company “to offer much-needed work to our brilliant team as hundreds of thousands in the live sector continue to face hardship and uncertainty”.
“We have demonstrated that we can operate safely, and that people will feel comfortable, confident and, more importantly, excited to be back with us. Live performance up and down the country can and must continue,” she said.