Three Norwich theatres will not reopen until 'end of social distancing'
- Credit: Archant
The boss of Norwich Theatre Royal has said it will not reopen while social distancing remains in place even if lockdown ends.
Norwich Theatre Royal, the Playhouse and Stage Two received a “lifeline” rescue package worth £3m from the government’s £1.57bn Culture Recovery Fund in October.
But Stephen Crocker, chief executive of Norwich Theatre, which runs all three venues, said uncertainty over social distancing restrictions meant the costs of reopening would risk the future of the venues.
“None of us knows when lockdown is going to end, but absolutely critical for us at all three venues is the ability to reopen without social distancing and there is no indication when that might be,” he said.
“The key thing is that we can only reopen once and when we do it we have to have consistent shows back to back.”
Mr Crocker said the government funding had secured the venues' financial stability through to March 2022.
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He added: “To reopen we will need to start increasing our costs and having come so far through this crisis to a point of having some level of stability we have to manage the risks around reopening really carefully.
“We can’t risk reopening unless we know for sure that we can stay open otherwise it would be hugely destabilising to us.”
The theatre has recently added more shows to the huge number cancelled or rescheduled, including Pam Ayres and Kiss Me Kate.
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However the venues are still taking bookings for shows in April including Private Lives starring Patricia Hodge and Nigel Havers and Queen musical We Will Rock You, rescheduled from last May.
Mr Crocker said: “We are with some shows heading towards third reschedules and I’m enormously grateful to bookers and audience members for sticking with us and being so patient and understanding.
“The real challenge particularly for Theatre Royal is that the vast majority of shows are part of quite long tours.
“If some of those tours are due to be starting in March then that can impact shows that are with us in June if the whole tour is rescheduled.”
Meanwhile the theatre is investigating ways to stage some socially distanced events following its Right Royal Christmas season and summer Interlude events in Chapelfield Gardens.
Mr Crocker said: “We are not ruling that out if we do remain closed for a period of time. There are some potential projects in the pipeline, there are also some amazing digital work that we are looking at doing and our engagement in education work is hugely important to us.”