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THAT WAS THE FORTNIGHT THAT WAS….
As regular readers will know, I got back from 13 nights in New York yesterday morning — and there’s a summary of my time there, both in the columns and tweets written from there, in my “That Was the Fortnight That Was” column posted last night here:
Above was my first sighting of Manhattan from the cab from JFK; 13 nights later, I had seen 20 shows.
And the key take-away and reassurance was not just that Broadway was back — after the longest break in its history — but that it was back safely, and that that safety was being taken utterly seriously. Vaccination certificates were being rigorously checked at every venue; and mask wearing compliance was 100%.
Compare and contrast this, as I’ve now bored myself to death asking, with the situation in Britain, and in theatres in London and England in particular. Here, in the absence of a government mandate or any leadership from SOLT or UK Theatres, there has been a free-for-all: each venue has set its own rules and protocols, which have ranged from doing nothing at all to continuing to take temperature checks and reminding and requiring patrons to mask-up while in the building.
At one venue — Liverpool Everyman — even the staff weren’t masked up, and when I asked the CEO why not, he told me it was a matter of their personal choice. No wonder the audience hardly wore any masks either.
COVID SAFETY: “A PRETY LOW PRICE TO PAY”. SAYS ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER
Yet as Europe enters another surge in COVID infections — and has already seen Austria already go back into another lockdown — some theatre owners and producers over here are finally being proactive in bringing in COVID safety protocols, like compulsory mask wearing and lateral flow tests at MOULIN ROUGE.
Speaking to LBC’s Nick Ferrari last week, Andrew Lloyd Webber said:
“I’ve just got back from America, I’ve been in New York, where you can’t buy a cup of coffee unless you are double vaccinated, you can’t go into any building unless you bring proof of double vaccination, you can’t go to the theatre without proof of double vaccination and you have to wear a mask all the way through.
People are determined to go out, as I say you can’t even buy a cup of coffee, you certainly couldn’t go and sit down in a restaurant without proof of double vaccination.
And it strikes me that if that’s what we have to do it’s a pretty low price to pay.”
This is, of course, the man who threatened to open his theatres come what may, during the last lockdown, and set the new first night for CINDERELLA on the very first night that theatres were allowed to reopen at full capacity, with audiences able to use their own discretion as to whether or not to mask up (I was there, and substantial numbers chose not to).
And just yesterday, the government “urged” — but did not insist — people “to take a rapid Covid test before mixing in crowded indoor spaces, marking a change in government and NHS guidance”, according to The Guardian.
The advice stated:
“You are at higher risk of catching or passing on Covid-19 in crowded and enclosed spaces, where there are more people who might be infectious and where there is limited fresh air. You may wish to take a rapid lateral flow test if it is expected that there will be a period of high risk that day. This includes spending time in crowded and enclosed spaces, or before visiting people who are at higher risk of severe illness if they get Covid-19.”
It also urges people to let fresh air in for indoor meetings and to wear face masks in “crowded and enclosed areas where you come into contact with people you do not usually meet”.
But SOLT and UK Theatre needn’t have waited until the government INSISTED on testing and/or masking for theatre patrons — and even now the government aren’t mandating it, just suggesting it. So neither, even now, are SOLT/UK Theatre. All of which should have been MANDATED from the beginning! As I have regularly said here, this marks a total failure of leadership from within the theatre industry itself.
Today’s Independent reports:
At current rates, we could be heading for another lockdown imminently (threatening this year’s panto season yet again); in which case I’m sure we’ll hear fast enough from an aggrieved SOLT and UK Theatre — who’ve done nothing to protect their customers from each other, so what did they expect?
TODAY’S THEATRE BIRTHDAYS