England theatres can re-open on 2 December if in tiers 1 and 2
| By Nicholas Ephram Ryan Daniels
New rules have been announced for England's tier system, which is intended to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. Theatres located in areas falling under tiers 1 and 2 will be permitted to re-open albeit with more stringent restrictions whilst venues placed under tier 3 will remain closed. Find out how the UK's new tier guidance might affect the West End below.
England's new tier guidelines and how they will affect theatre
The UK government announced yesterday new tier guidance set to take effect on 2 December 2020 that will have a positive effect for many theatres and performance venues across England. Dubbed a "tougher" version of the tier system that was introduced in early autumn, any venue falling under tier three (the highest alert band possible) will not be able to open with live audiences (though they may still be permitted to broadcast live-streamed productions as has been the case all throughout this month).
The tier system was first introduced in September in order to prevent a nationwide lockdown and instead implement measures on a regional basis based on region rates of infection. Areas with a higher rate of infection were subject to stricter measures whilst areas with fewer coronavirus cases were allowed more freedoms.
Venues under tier one and tier two measures will still have to abide by social distancing measures in order to mitigate the risk of infection. Previously, venues were permitted to open even in tier three but now will no longer be able to do so despite beauty salons, gyms, and the like being permitted to re-open in tier three. Tiers one and two will see capacity restrictions put in place with 1000 being the maximum number of audience members allowed to enter or the max being 50 per cent of a venue's conventional capacity (whichever is lower).
What areas in England will be under tiers one and two?
It has yet to be announced which areas will fall under the more lenient first and second tiers and which ones will fall under the stricter tier three. Boris Johnson has stated that he believes more regions will be in higher tiers than before. Many West End shows are still expected to run along with a handful of pantomimes for the 2020 Christmas panto season. However, the lockdown status of a particular area will be reviewed every two weeks, which means areas in tier two could potentially slip into tier three at a moment's notice.
Johnson sounded a note of optimism around recent strides in vaccine revelations. "The scientific cavalry is in sight...the whole concept of a COVID lockdown will be redundant."
Julian Bird, chief executive of the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre, said: "Today's announcement of new restrictions for performing arts venues in all tiers has shaken an already fragile sector. Closure of venues in tier 3 areas will mean cancellation of pantos and other shows, risking organisations' long-term survival and leaving theatre freelancers adrift with no compensation. The capacity constraints in tiers 1 and 2 will lead to financial problems for venues and disappointment for audiences. It is unclear why these have been instituted in a sector with no known spread of the virus. As ever, we remain committed to working with the Government to secure the survival of our world-leading theatre sector."
Les Miserables responds to the UK Government's latest tier system announcements
The London production of Les Mis was scheduled to run a sold-out, all-star concert at the Sondheim Theatre in early December after the second lockdown restrictions were lifted with Carrie Hope Fletcher, Alfie Boe, Michael Ball, and Shan Ako appearing in the show. However, the new tier guidelines have forced the production to rethink a few logistics. Ticketholders are advised to remain patient as the production works out what its best options are moving forward. The concert-style production was set to open at reduced capacity with 750 socially distanced seats, which is 324 fewer than the theatre's max capacity.
📰 News of which areas will fall under tiers one and two is expected to be announced on Thursday after the House of Commons holds a vote on the matter. Keep following our news pages for all the latest West End and UK theatre announcements.