Andrew Lloyd Webber has announced a pilot scheme to see how theatre audiences could work after lockdown, and what the practical issues of keeping hundreds of people in a confined auditorium might actually involve. The plans include a trial at the London Palladium, part of Lloyd Webber’s LW Theatres group, which also owns the Adelphi Theatre and the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, among others.
In an interview with theatre newspaper The Stage, LW Theatres’ chief executive Rebecca Kane Burton explained how the proposed safety measures they are trying out might work: ‘There is an infrared camera at the stage door, your temperature is taken remotely as you walk in, and a great big dashboard flashes up [to indicate] whether you can come in the building or not. As soon as it does, the airlock releases, the door opens and you go in. You put on a face mask and hand-sanitise, and keep a two-metre distance because we have markings around the building.’ She added that they will ‘happily use the Palladium as a really good testbed to demonstrate how we think we can best manage ourselves out of this’.
The proposal comes at a time when London’s theatres are facing financial ruin. As Time Out has reported, industry figures including Cameron Mackintosh and Sonia Friedman have predicted that theatres across the UK will not be able to reopen until 2021, by which time many of them will simply have gone bust for good. Even iconic venues like the Globe, the Old Vic and the National Theatre are in dire straits. Amid calls for the government to better support the arts through the current crisis, Lloyd Webber’s initiative offers a glimmer of hope.
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