As some West End productions ready for reopening—and select theatres across the U.K. follow suit—the collective organization that represents said venues and its operators has launched a new program to ensure safety and instill confidence to returning theatregoers.
Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre's See It Safely campaign will offer member theatres who complete an online application and meet certain safety guidelines a compliance badge to use on digital and physical marketing materials. The toolkit will also include a safety video for audiences, suggested website copy, training resources, and more.
Under the guidance of the U.K.’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, SOLT and UK Theatre have approved 140 venues in the early stages of the campaign, including those owned by Nimax Theatres. Among the company’s West End theatres are the Lyric and the Duchess, which will soon be home to socially distanced engagements of Six and The Play That Goes Wrong, respectively. Kenny Wax, president of SOLT, is the producer of both.
“There is clearly huge pent up demand for live theatre,” Wax says, “and it is wonderful to give audiences something to look forward to as we head into the Christmas season.”
While compliance will not be mandatory for member theatres to present their productions, SOLT/UK is “strongly encouraging” members to apply, and say they will offer assistance to meet requirements. Additionally, they will offer formal site visits to ensure measures have been safely applied.
“We have a number of challenges to meet before the majority of our theatres can open, but we are confident that from a safety perspective audiences and our workforce can be reassured that every measure is being addressed, and we look forward to rolling out the scheme and welcoming our audiences back,” says SOLT/UK Theatre Chief Executive Julian Bird. “We hope that the See It Safely mark gives audiences the peace of mind to return to the live theatre that they love.”
Though U.K. theatres, like Broadway and venues across the U.S., have largely been shuttered since March, some productions and theatre companies have put measures in place (socially distanced seating configurations, temperature checks, mask enforcement, etc.) to offer some form of indoor live-entertainment theatre, albeit not at a pre-pandemic scale. In addition to London’s Six (which will also play Manchester) and The Play that Goes Wrong, Sleepless (a new musical adaptation of Sleepless in Seattle) opened in early September. The city’s National Theatre has transformed its Olivier stage, where it will present Death of England: Delroy beginning October 21.
Still, many productions, such as those from megaproducer Cameron Mackintosh and Andrew Lloyd Webber, are hesitant to return with a reduced crowd out of a lack of financial viability, stating they will not return until they can do so without social distancing.