SPOTLIGHT ON: Covid measures at the theatre

Brian Butler March 1, 2022

The Government has signalled an end to all legally-enforced  covid measures, including masks on public transport and the use of so-called Covid passes – that is proof of full vaccination or a very recent negative lateral flow test.

So are we all in the clear for not taking precautions at theatre and concert venues like Brighton Theatre Royal, Brighton Dome and West End venues? And what about the upcoming Festival and Fringe seasons in Brighton?

I visit lots of venues to write for Scene and there has been no hard-and-fast rule for some time, so the current relaxation has just added confusion and anomalies. Some Government guidance suggests that the covid pass regime doesn’t disappear until 1 April – a good date for it – but theatres are not specifically mentioned.

Throughout the Dome and Theatre Royal have asked for Covid passes and compelled or urged the use of masks. At one time they even took temperatures. Venue bars largely remain cashless. There is of course no social distancing inside venues anymore though some small spaces I’ve recently attended – the Soho Theatre downstairs for instance – certainly did space seats and tables in their cabaret venue.

At the New Wimbledon Theatre studio recently I had to show my covid pass and wear a mask. At the King’s Head, masks are now recommended but there’s no covid pass regime. At the Seven Dials Playhouse, masks were worn but again no distancing or passes required.

So I asked both the Brighton Theatre Royal and Dome to update me on current requirements, and those likely to be in force for Brighton Festival, and separately sought clarity from Brighton Fringe. As far as the Theatre Royal is concerned, there seems no longer to be a need to show proof of vaccination. Face coverings are recommended, except when eating or drinking, but staff will continue to wear masks. Staggered entry times help audience flows.

Brighton Dome says:”please look after others by ….” They then suggest you should take a lateral flow test before visiting an event, admitting they are only free till 1 April. They also recommend wearing a face covering when not eating or drinking. They suggest giving others a bit of space when you can, and offer some socially distanced seating when possible. Their doors open an hour before shows to ease audience arrival flows.

For the Fringe, I assume individual venues will have their own safety regimes, but bearing in mind many shows are in extremely small spaces, I’m not sure that anything other than mask-wearing will help.

As far as I’m concerned, I’ll continue to wear a mask in auditoria of all sizes.

…..and if you need some inspiration check out these from costume designer and actor Edmond Kok who has created more than 170 experimental face masks.