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Hackney Empire

Why it takes time for shows to reopen

Hira Desai

By Hira Desai First Published 24 August 2020, Last Updated 25 August 2020

On 16 March, theatres across the country closed their doors and though from 15 August, theatres were finally given the green light to reopen for indoor performances with social distancing, the majority of venues remain closed.

Multi-award-winning Theatre Producer Kenny Wax (Six The Musical, Top Hat and all the Mischief shows including Olivier Award-winning The Play That Goes Wrong) explains that sadly shows cannot simply open overnight as it takes time to restage a show, to re-engage cast members and creatives and the stage management team, to rehearse, build an audience and for the theatre to ensure that all the necessary safety protocols are in place.

We’ve put together a timeline for reopening a large-scale show and the process involved:

10-12 weeks before reopening: A marketing campaign/press activity will be rolled out to encourage advance tickets sales

4 weeks before reopening: The cast members will work with the musical director on the singing if the show is a musical.

3 weeks before reopening: The cast begin rehearsals and the crew begin technical work on set

2 weeks before reopening: A round of costume fittings will take place

1 week before reopening: The band will be reunited for rehearsals

3 days before reopening: The crew will begin tech rehearsals

Ahead of the first preview: A couple of dress runs will be scheduled

As well as the issue of time with social distancing in place and audiences reduced to 30% it is simply not economically viable for many shows to open as they need to play to, at least 70 to 80% capacity to break even.

Many theatres are planning innovative ways to open during this period. The response to open-air theatres and those shows that have been able to open show that audiences are desperate for live theatre but sadly it is going to take time for the West End to return to its former glory.

The impact of the pandemic has been devastating for live theatre and we encourage you to continue supporting the industry, whether that’s booking tickets to see future shows, purchasing theatre tokens, donating to your local theatre or making a contribution to the Theatre Artists Fund which supports freelancers in need of urgent financial support now.

Every little helps and we really appreciate your ongoing support.


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