Get us in your inbox

This Berlin theatre has nailed socially-distant seating

The Berliner Ensemble has removed nearly three quarters of its seats

James Manning
Written by
James Manning

As countries pivot towards a weird new normality, attention is turning to how the hell cultural venues are going to get back up and running. Music venues, nightclubs, theatres, cinemas – they all rely on packing lots of people closely together indoors, something that doesn’t seem like it’ll be possible for quite some time. So how can they reopen safely? One German theatre has a possible answer.

The Berliner Ensemble has ripped out around 500 of the 700 seats in its main house. Those that remain are clustered in ones and twos, with entirely empty rows between. The idea is to make sure there’s sufficient distance between groups when they’re seated for the show – though it also has the added benefit of adding lots more legroom.

According to its Twitter feed, the theatre is now working out what effect the new seating arrangement will have on acoustics. To further minimise contact between theatregoers, there will be no intervals. Instead, there’ll be a more relaxed attitude to audience members dashing in and out during performances, once the theatre reopens in September.

The Berliner Ensemble is subsidised by the German state and plans to keep ticket prices steady despite the massive drop in capacity, reports The Guardian. Playhouses elsewhere in Europe may not be so lucky. Shakespeare’s Globe in London is crowdfunding for its survival, and producer Sonia Friedman has warned that 70 percent of UK theatres could close by Christmas without government support. ‘To put it bluntly,’ she wrote, ‘theatre is incompatible with social distancing.’

Until theatres reopen, check out our pick of the best theatre, musicals, opera and dance you can watch online right now.

More on Time In

    Latest news