..Isn’t this all just a further barrier to people attending the theatre?" - Nastazja, Borough
I have never been in favour of vaccine passport for exactly that reason; it creates barriers and theatre already has quite enough of those, thank you, including many that are self-created. Theatre endlessly talks about dismantling barriers, but it seems pretty slow in pulling them down which sometimes makes me think that an awful lot of people in theatre benefit from the barriers and secretly quite like them.
But I digress. I don’t think that insisting that audience members at Moulin Rouge! wear a mask (unless exempt) or that those attending the intimate Kit Kat Club show evidence of negative covid test (even if double vaccinated) is a barrier. It is just common sense. It protects everybody: not just the audience but also the cast and those who work backstage and front of house. Wearing a mask costs you nothing, and there is strong evidence that it protect others; a LF test is free and doesn’t take long to complete.
What has not been sensible during the last few months is the reluctance on the part of many theatre managements to encourage audiences to wear masks or indeed to follow some of the Covid protocols that their own websites say are in place. It has led to a slew of articles—particularly in the US—which are likely to discourage theatre-loving tourists to return to London, and it has possibly had a significant detrimental effect on domestic audiences who are more risk adverse. Often those are older audiences who prior to the pandemic went to the theatre regularly and had the disposal income to buy higher priced tickets. Why wouldn’t you want to entice them back?
Theatre managements’ lack of clarity and enforcement of their own covid protocols clearly comes from a desire not to alienate customers who are adverse to mask wearing, a fear of losing future business and a desire to avoid tensions in small spaces. It is also because checking everyone’s vaccination or infection status slows down getting into the theatre and potentially impacts on audience experience. It’s interesting and perhaps not surprising that it is two shows with considerable advances, and which are deemed very hot tickets indeed who are making a stand. The fact that people really really want to see these shows gives them clout.
I think others–including both producers and audiences—will be watching with interest to see how well these protocols are applied and complied with. I hope they are because anything which makes audiences feel safer is a good thing and is likely to increase consumer confidence while also protecting everyone who loves theatre, whether audience or workers.
Cover photo by Pille R. Priske on Unsplash