Complacency Is Not A Course Of Action – Please protect theatre and take action

Whether you like it or not Coronavirus is not going away and in plain simple language complacency is not a course of action.

Theatre safety wear masks

Coronavirus infection rates have been above 40,000 every day for the past seven days, and on Tuesday the number of deaths relating to the virus was the highest since March and more shows are having to cancel shows or facing the prospect of cancelling performances.

Sitting here, I am at a loss how theatres in Wales, Ireland, Scotland all have at least some interior restrictions in place and on Broadway are all requiring vaccination passports and the mandatory wearing of masks whilst inside theatres and public settings, whilst in England and in particular London’s West End theatregoers might be mislead into thinking that the pandemic with lax vaccination or negative test screening on entry and almost no mask-wearing in theatre auditoriums.

For a city reliant on tourism especially our visiting theatre-goers, visitors are noticing. Peter Marks, critic for The Washington Post has been in London reporting on the lastest shows and this is how he is reporting what he experiences:-

Then this:-

and this:-

and more:-

and finally:-

It’s not the tourism message we want out there if we want theatre to thrive!

When theatres started to re-open Ambassador Theatre Group and some fringe theatres most notably Hampstead Theatre lead the way with strict door screening and in the later example mask-wearing in the auditorium. We have continued to receive concerning reports from patrons about the lack of vaccine checking and mask-wearing in theatres where some shows are running at capacity. Others are enquiring about transferring tickets as they do not feel it is safe at this time.

In an article entitled “No Masks Required: The Joys and Fears of Seeing UK Theatre Now” in the New York Times last week Nicolette Jones (who sees shows on average once a week is now “not going at all. “Theatre is my relaxation, my escape,” said Jones, 61. “The thought of sitting next to somebody who is unmasked for two hours, laughing and whatever, that is going to remove all that”.  Also quoted in the same article is Stephanie Kempson, a director who is quoted as saying “People are so excited to be back and I can forgive them for that, but it does seem there’s a lack of awareness and common-mindedness”.

In England, the government has left it to individuals to decide whether or not to wear masks in theatre auditoriums. Theatre ticket prices will have to rise if cancellation becomes a factor in the cost of production. Livelihoods will be threatened. The theatre industry nationwide was bought to its knees in 2020. It will not withstand another onslaught of closures or in the worst case another lockdown.

Whilst many are sure in their belief that vaccination will prevent this from happening, Vaccination does not prevent people from contracting COVID and many (including some well-known cast members in some major shows) remain unvaccinated. Equity on Broadway now requires all performers and crew to be vaccinated to ensure their safety, this is not the situation in the West End.

West End performers have also been taking to Twitter to politely request mask wearing.

make masks mandatory

Some theatres appear to have abandoned screening at the door or taken on a spot check type of testing as they realise that delays in start times and large queues often result when compulsory checking is in place. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s LW Theatre group is mentioned foremost in this regard, ironic given that Lloyd Webber was at the forefront to re-open theatres safely.

With both casts and audiences placed at risk because of poor decisions by the government, it is now time to take action ourselves or face the consequences of another major surge in the pandemic as we head towards Christmas. The wearing of facemasks indoors at theatres must become part of individual precautions and theatres musty start full screenings at the door if we are to avert catastrophe.

There was much fanfare when the Society Of London Theatres launched the See It Safely mark of reassurance for theatregoers. This too is now being questioned as a meaningless exercise where the Society itself is not following up to verify compliance.

We cannot allow Boris Johnson’s government to blame theatregoers for deciding not to be responsible when it was always clear caution was necessary. We know that based on their track record so far this government are always too late when it comes to acting for the people’s good. Infection rates are rising fast again and if for no other reason, we should act to reduce potential pressure on an already exhausted NHS staff.

Please take Boris Johnson up on his statement and take the decision to wear a mask in theatre auditoriums to help protect theatre lovers and the theatre industry. We need to help protect each other before it is too late.


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