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Theatres and live music venues to open next month - but bosses are anxious about drawing crowds

PUBLISHED: 10:00 18 July 2020

Chief Executive of the Theatre Royal Stephen Crocker. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

Chief Executive of the Theatre Royal Stephen Crocker. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

Archant

After getting the green light to open to the public again, Norfolk and Waveney’s entertainment bosses have given mixed reactions to reopening.

Paula Meir, Maddermarket Theatre Trust chairman. Photo: Maddermarket TheatrePaula Meir, Maddermarket Theatre Trust chairman. Photo: Maddermarket Theatre

On Friday, July 17, the prime minister announced indoor live performances can resume with socially distanced audiences from next month.

Boris Johnson said performances will be able to begin again at every UK entertainment venue from August 1, “subject to the success of pilots”, adding: “We will also pilot larger gatherings in venues like sports stadia with a view to wider reopening in the autumn.”

It has come as welcome news to many of the region’s arts and entertainment hubs who have been among the sector hardest hit by the pandemic, with theatres like Norwich’s Maddermarket and Sheringham’s Little Theatre saying they have new shows ready to be put on.

READ MORE: Theatre and gig bosses reveal plans to reopen region’s entertainment venues

Debbie Thompson, who is director of Sheringham Little Theatre and Great Yarmouth's St George's Theatre.
Picture: RICHARD BATSONDebbie Thompson, who is director of Sheringham Little Theatre and Great Yarmouth's St George's Theatre. Picture: RICHARD BATSON

Debbie Thompson, director of the Sheringham Little Theatre, said: “We have things waiting in the wings, ready to go. Though it is a challenge as the clue in our name suggests. We’re a little theatre, and social distancing is difficult for us.

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“But it is lovely to hear some green shoots of hope as we have been waiting a long time for this. We miss everyone and theatres are so miserable without people in them.”

Paula Meir, chair of trustees at the Maddermarket Theatre, added: “We are very excited about this. We have been doing a lot behind the scenes, but it’s hard as we have to be lead by government.

Brian Hallard, who runs the Princess Theatre in Hunstanton. Picture: Ian BurtBrian Hallard, who runs the Princess Theatre in Hunstanton. Picture: Ian Burt

“It’s important for the community that we reopen, and we want to make sure audiences are comfortable to come back and to have a positive experience. We will reveal all soon, but we have something exciting planned for Christmas.”

READ MORE: Theatre may have to make 71pc of its roles redundant

While Stephen Crocker, CEO of Norwich’s Theatre Royal and Playhouse, said it would not be viable to open his venues, he called the news a “very positive step forward for performers, venues, audiences and everyone connected with the sector”.

However other entertainment bosses have expressed concern over the financial viability of reopening to distanced crowds.

“I don’t see how this is going to work,” Brian Hallard of the Princess Theatre in Hunstanton said. “We have reopened our cinema with just over 10pc capacity, and our theatre couldn’t open like that and still make a profit.”


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