Getting Back to Socially Distanced Theatre

Carole Mitchell is a Front of House assistant. We last heard from her back in May with all the theatres shut. We caught up with her recently to find out how life is changing again. 

Carole Front of HouseSince my work as a FOH theatre assistant and social life as an avid theatre and music goer stopped on 16 March, I’ve been consoling myself with lots of online offerings which have been a great lifesaver during the lockdown.  However I’ve been desperately waiting to get back to live events but every time it seemed like there was a glimmer of hope there would be another setback regarding covid restrictions.

Now even the cinema (which I rarely go to) has been shut again – I actually went to cinema three times this week though; twice for a film festival at an independent and once to my local Picturehouse on Thursday 8th for the last showing before it closes – very sad.  And while chatting to one of the FOH assistants I found out that they didn’t know Picturehouse was closing until they read it in the newspaper and had no idea what their position would be the following day – outrageous!

Now back to theatre.  I’ve been to a couple of outdoor performances at The Garden Theatre, Eagle and Waterloo East’s alfresco, both had social distancing practices in place to differing degrees which worked fairly well (interestingly both did temperature checks) and I really enjoyed seeing live theatre (even with a mask on).  It was also abundantly clear that the performers and audience were very happy to be back.

My first indoor experience of theatre was at Southwark Playhouse (where I usually volunteer).  They invited volunteers and others to a preview of The Last Five Years to test out their new social distancing arrangements.  At the moment they are using staff for FOH duties but may use volunteers later in the run – hopefully.  I think they did a very good job with their one way system, socially distanced seating (plus screens in some sections), table service for drinks etc.  It pays to book a table in the bar before the show otherwise you may have to queue outside the theatre before the show starts though!  (I believe this is the same for some other venues.)  Again the enthusiasm of the cast and audience was clear.

I so admire the dedication of all the performers who are giving their all to bring back live theatre to a masked audience – not an easy task – but one that is very much appreciated.  I know many people have reservations about going back to the theatre and I understand that not everyone wants to be in a room full of strangers with masks on!  For me the slight discomfort of a mask and queuing etc is far outweighed by the joy of being back in the theatre, plus it takes courage and financial uncertainty for venues to put on shows with these constraints so they need all the support they can get.  I really hope next year will be more like a normal experience for everyone but for now I’m still in the front row!


Leave a comment