Back in June, Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber announced a pilot scheme to see how live theatre with an audience could work after lockdown, and what the practical issues of keeping hundreds of people safe in a confined auditorium might actually involve. The plans included a trial at the London Palladium, part of Lloyd Webber’s LW Theatres group, which is now going ahead this week, in anticipation of theatres being allowed to reopen from Saturday August 1.
When the trial was reported, LW Theatres’ chief executive Rebecca Kane Burton explained the proposed safety measures they were exploring: ‘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’.
Now it has been revealed that audiences will also be sprayed with anti-viral spray as they enter the auditorium, using a doorframe-shaped device imported from South Korea. Theatres in South Korea have remained open throughout the pandemic, including one that’s home to Seoul’s production of ‘The Phantom of the Opera’. This has clearly impressed Lord Lloyd Webber, since the emphasis there is on hygiene and cleaning, not social distancing.
Speaking to the BBC, Lord Lloyd Webber said: ‘Theatre can’t run with social distancing. It’s just not economically possible. The average play needs a 65 percent capacity, while the average musical needs more. […] We need to get to a pilot where we don’t need social distancing, which is why we’ve put all of these measures in at the Palladium. It’s not to prove that the Palladium can work, it’s to prove that every venue can work. With very basic measures it is possible to reopen venues and concert halls.’
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