The bad news you can probably already guess. London's theatre venues have to close, whether they're indoor or outdoor. This is pretty disastrous news for all the theatre producers who took a massive chance on launching new shows this Autumn, encouraged by the government's 'Operation Sleeping Beauty', which aimed to save panto. Theatres went to great lengths to ensure their audiences were safe. Perspex screens, socially distanced seating and compulsory mask-wearing have meant that going to a Covid-19 era theatre show is probably much less risky than your average bus ride. But at the same time, low risk is not the same as no risk, and fast-rising case numbers make it essential that we put live shows on pause to protect everyone's health.
The good news? Well, rehearsals and livestreamed performances are still allowed, as Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden announced last night at 10pm over Twitter (with that sense of timing, he'll never make it in showbiz). So that means that theatres can prime themselves for reopening; theoretically when lockdown ends on 2nd December, although it could well be later than that. And they can also livestream their performances to audiences at home, which means that unlike the last lockdown, we'll be treated to brand new shows instead of old archive recordings.
There are still plenty of question marks over what's going on with theatre right now. Will there be a second instalment of the Cultural Recovery Fund, to help out venues that have been forced to shut for a second time? What if the government changes the rules on rehearsing and livestreaming? If the last seven months have shown anything, it's that theatre has to be massively flexible, to survive the government's frequent changes of heart. But what we do know is that theatres have got much, much better at handling sudden box office shocks. While last lockdown led to overloaded phone lines as ticket-buyers hunted for refunds, this time, getting your money back should be much easier. But if you can afford it, why not donate the ticket cost to the struggling theatre industry - or postpone it by a month or two? With another lockdown looming, we all need something to look forward to.
Cover image: "The Thrill Of The West End (London,England)" by Mr Andy Bird, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0